By Bob Jamison

          In the early l9th century much thought was given to winning the war of the western frontier. The normally gentle but yet fierce American Bison or Buffalo happened to be one of the major strategist of that great conflict. The theory was simple. The war like Indians depended on the vast herds of Buffalo for both food and shelter or clothing. Wipe them out and the Indians would yield. It wasn’t all that simple but that is another story.

          Today, particularly in the coastal areas of Texas, we find another species of the Buffalo. It is commonly known as the “Buffalo Gnat”. This tiny creature appears under a magnifying glass as a hump back little fly that is truly the vampire of the insect world. Its blood sucking bite normally leaves a whelp that itches for hours. Of course, there are some that claim the gnats buzz around them but don’t bite. I’m not one of those unfortunately. They go straight to the skin and dig in.

          The Buffalo Gnat or Black Fly’s as some prefer to call them, develop in swarms as the summer months approach. The beginning of April is a good indicator of the ensuing attack of the vicious little demon that heads straight to your ear, eyes or any exposed skin. This is particularly true if you live near salt or fresh water. Similar to mosquitoes, water is where their life cycle begins. However, as the summer months begin to heat up and become very hot, the gnats seem to diminish in numbers (thankfully).

          At times, those of us that suffer from some forms of allergy from their bites might find comfort in certain repellants applied to exposed skin. The product called DEET claims some effectiveness. I’ve found another product that has proven quite effective and it is called Smart Shield by the makers of sunscreen and repellents. This product claims eco-friendly and deet free. There are many other products, I’m sure, that are effective and one is from your nearest Avon dealer and it’s called “Skin so Soft”. It’s a little sticky and smelly but somewhat effective. Finally, if this doesn’t work for you, many sporting goods outlets offer a fine mesh netting that fits over your hat and covers your face and neck. Gloves work for the hands too.

          One of the favorite tricks of this buzzing blistering bug is getting right behind glasses to get a close look and possibly a succulent bite of your eye. That really gets your attention and other that a soothing eye drop of some kind, there is little you can do for the itching. On the skin however, a simple application of itch cream you can buy over the counter at any drug store or most grocery stores. One commonly used for itch relief is 2% Hydrocortisone.

          Most of the effects of Black Fly’s or Buffalo Gnats are temporary. On the other hand, should the symptoms become serious as with some persons allergic to bee stings or other insect bites, a trip to the doctor should not be over looked. It is reported that severe allergenic reaction (anaphylaxis) is sometimes observed in babies or very young children.

          There are a number of defenses for your comfort or your health in defending you and your family from these springtime pest. It ranges from these skin repellents to insecticides commonly used in fogging machines. Pyrethrum products, citronella, deet, and even bug bite shields worn on your wrist like “flea collars” often help. Torches on your lawn with insect repellant oil fuels are also some benefit plus many electrical sapper devices or traps for insects claim some success.

          Of the true Buffalo experiences I learned of some years ago was on a quail hunt in South Texas. It had nothing to do with gnats but the sequence was similar. One of our guest on the hunt happened to be an Under Secretary of the U. S. Department of the Interior over fauna or wildlife. He received a frantic call from a federal officer in the Yellowstone National Park.

          The call related to a vacationer that spotted a small herd of Buffalo sleeping in a meadow near the highway. He wanted his son to have his picture made by the Buffalo while it was standing. So the man hit the animal with a stick. The Buffalo got up alright and stomped the gentleman forth with.

So it is with wild Buffalo instincts that might be similar. But instead of a ton of raging beef, the gnat is only a tiny insect. This pest won’t stomp you but your fingers will do the walking and leave tracks on your face and neck not unlike the winding Yellowstone River or the bubbling pits of eruptions you notice in this beautiful wilderness. All the while, enjoy the outdoors; it’s there for you but take along a proper repellent and leave the stick at home.