The Star-Herald

The insects are here

Dickens coined the phrase that characterizes 2017 thus far — “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times…”  

Winter just went on and on, setting a record for the most days of snow cover.  Ever.  Instead of a burst of birdsong and burgeoning new growth, spring halfheartedly vacillated.  When finally just carrying a jacket might do, it needed to be a rain jacket—day after day of rain, rain, rain.  With one eye on the rapidly dwindling numbers of days of an already short growing season, growers took on an edge of quiet desperation, sticking seeds into muddy, wet holes.  

Summer finally arrived on the wings of ubiquitous insects.  This is not particularly unusual, other than the blackflies, mosquitoes, moose flies, ticks, and no-see-‘ums do not politely wait their turns as expected.  They all hover outside the screens, anticipating the emergence of hot-blooded mammals.

We flail like drowning men going down for the third time, cussing under our breath as the vampires go into our eyes, up our noses, and dot the backs of our necks.  A hair-snare in the shower drain clogs with dead bug parts when we retreat indoors to wash away the itch.  Our animals fare no better.  A heavy fur coat reduces predation compared to “naked apes,” but house pets’ ears become crusty with blood and scabs and they swipe their faces with inadequate paws.  They have the advantage of sharing our screen doors, however.  On pasture, goats and sheep accept their torturous fate with resignation.  Chickens and pigs bury themselves in the earth.  Attuned to biting flies singing the song of their people, cattle and horses flick their ears, twitch their tails, and stomp their feet like they are responding to rowdy country music.   

With the insidious emergence of more tick- and mosquito-borne diseases, we reluctantly souse ourselves in DEET and leave an effluvium of “bug-dope” in our wake.  Despite the misery we see in their eyes, few animals seem to welcome, or even accept, the chemical assistance we offer.  They back away from our outstretched hands or spray can with alarm and revulsion.  And who can blame them?  

Fortunately, Natalia Bragg of Knot-II-Bragg Farm offers an alternative.   In her burgeoning bag of tricks offering everything from drawing salves to blood builders gleaned from Maine’s natural apothecary, Natalia offers a mixture of know-how and magic she identifies as Herbal Fly Spray.  In a carrier of spring water and scented with essential oils, it neither reeks nor slimes.  A bottle lasts the whole season if used in accordance to directions, and your animals will accept the proffered relief gratefully.  True, it requires liberal application at regular intervals, but who among us on (finally!) hot July days is likely to say, “Oh, darn.  It is 80 degrees and I have to spray myself with spring water”?

Natalia joins the other vendors at the Presque Isle Farmers Market on Saturday mornings in the Aroostook Centre Mall parking lot from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.  Come for fresh, locally grown meat, fruits, and vegetables and leave with welcome insectivorous relief.  See you there.

The Presque Isle Farmer’s market’s chair/president for the remainder of the season is Deena Albert-Parks of Chops Ahoy farm in Woodland. For information about participating or visiting the market, contact her at

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