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 Ruby's Road: Bugging Out

Ruby's Road
Story and Photo by Dawne Belloise

Editor Note: Anyone who has hiked Anclote Key or Caladesi Island a few days after a summer rain can relate to this article by roving photo-journalist Dawne Belloise.

Traveling in a vintage VW bug is like traveling with a child. In the diaper bag are spare fuses, a couple of plastic bauble fuel filters, belts, screwdriver, duct tape, baling twine and extra clothing in case all of that doesn't work and you have to hike out or spend the night on a mountain pass. But the most valuable commodity of utmost necessity is insect repellant. No matter what anyone tells you about the dangers of using it, Deet is your best friend this time of year. Any long-term detrimental physical effects are offset by the voracious vampire black flies populating the woods looking for a picnic…and you are the main course through dessert. Go all out. I'm not talking about miniscule portions of active ingredient emulsified into a sweet coconut almond silkiness … no, I'm talking about 98% unadulterated poison suspended in stinky, slimy oil slathered everywhere. And still, those little black buzzers will find the one tiny square nano-meter patch of skin that your outstretched fingers could not reach and they will work that spot like your last nerve. A convergence of incessantly buzzing wings and teeth on unprotected epidermis.

The flies have figured out that they can't cop a feed through the triple layers of moisturizer, sunblock and Deet, but this doesn't stop them from continuously power diving head, ears and face through the entire day. If they can't feed on you, they can annoy to their unending delight. Swatting becomes a sport with the flies winning every round. Nikon pro camera… $800, hiking boots…$125, Deet…priceless, - squishing one of those little suckers into kingdom come…gratifying beyond words.

A sweetness of light plays on the delicate green ground cover between the density of trees as the scent of pine fills the air. It's a beautiful day for a hike…if you enjoy blood letting. The bugs swarm in clusters rising with the warm currents, drifting in the odiferous deep forest. The air vibrates with the sound of wings cutting through the peaceful setting like a deafening chorus of chainsaws. I think about global warming and how bugs will proliferate and inherit the earth. The next fortune will be made in evolving formulas for bug repellent since the flies seem to develop an immunity if you stand still in one place for more than ten seconds. Hail to the spiders, bats, birds and frogs that are eating airborne pests.

In Thailand, the lunch cart includes bugs that would make your dog run screaming. Certainly not for the faint of heart westerner, these delicacies are offered for a nominal price however, tourists were paying the vendor for the privilege of only taking a photo of their smiling but cautious faces next to the monstrosities that were the size of a small VW. So that's how the VeeDub bug got its name, I thought, but what of the phrase, “cuter than a bug's ear”? I wasn't going to get close enough to see if the bug's ear was any cuter. And I'll bet eating one didn't have the flavor of revenge.

The morning after the hike, I woke up with a throbbing Deet hangover but a minimal amount of bites, which seemed a fair trade since West Nile is someplace I'd like to visit not something I want to contract.

Posted On Friday, August 4, 2006

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