Dan Rattiner's Stories

The Curious Behavior of Bugs This Summer

Something strange is going on with the bugs this summer. Usually they get very annoying in July and then even worse in August. You keep the screen doors closed. You tell others to keep the screen doors closed. When the bugs do get in, they bite you and you go around swatting them. Outside, they come over to bite you and you have to chase them away.

Fact is, if you have doors or sliders and leave them open this summer, nothing happens in the bug department. It’s just so strange.

On the other hand—and many other people I know have noticed this—though bugs are not much in evidence at eye level, they are very much around below the knees. So if you wear shorts, you get bit below the knee. This summer, many people tried shorts but soon returned to keeping their legs covered. I went to the doctor for a checkup the other day. Among other things he told me was lots of people are getting bitten below the knees this year.

What’s going on?

I’ve been thinking this could be just another weird thing happening with climate change. The bees die off one year then come back the next. Red tide fills our ponds and bays one year but not the next. Maybe the weather is making the mosquitoes and flies so tired they can’t get far off the ground.

Or maybe it’s the chemicals we put on our landscaping. Maybe the chemicals are different this year and tests show they don’t kill bugs but just weaken them. So that’s why they only get up a few feet.

Another possibility is the birds. Birds eat bugs. Maybe the bugs have figured this out and deliberately fly very low to stay under the bird radar. Or maybe there are more birds, and they sweep areas clean of bugs every day.

Usually, at my house, carpenter bees arrive in the spring. These are huge, friendly bumblebees that either mean others no malice or fail to have any way of stinging or both. They fly around, stop to hover thoughtfully when they see you, then go away.

But not this year. Haven’t seen a carpenter bee all spring. And haven’t seen a wasp or yellow jacket all summer, or at least above the knees.

I’ve been trying to think of how our herds of deer might have something to do with this. But that makes no sense. Deer eat down low, or at least only up to about five feet, to judge by the parts of the foliage they strip. Sometimes, on their hind legs, they can do eight feet, but they don’t do that often. If anything, they prefer low. So if it were the bugs, the bugs would be gone there.

I kind of feel bad for the bugs if some chemical has made them so weak they can only get a few feet up off the ground. I wonder if they try and just can’t do it, so then find a second bug and sort of hand-in-hand work together to get up a foot or two, sort of like the Wounded Warrior logo. I suppose if I sat quietly, I might see if that were so.

That’s what happened to the Wright Brothers, by the way. I’ve seen the films of their first flight. They just don’t go up very high, then they come down. And they needed two of them.

Another idea is that all the bugs are okay but with climate change the larger bugs have migrated further north to find someplace cooler. The large bugs are equipped with big enough wings to quickly do that, while the smaller bugs might try and try and just get up a foot or two, after which they get tired and have to rest. They’re going. Eventually, they’ll get there.

We’ll just have to see what next summer brings. Maybe next summer frogs will fly.

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