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By LEON YOUNGBLOOD
“Aren’t flies supposed to go someplace for winter?” the neighbor asked as she swatted at the winged intruders with her palm.
“Yes,” said our host, “they come here. They come not only from all the county; they come down from Canada and the whole U S of A, and stay the whole season long.”
Sunshine and a lull in the bitter cold and wind caused a few of us to get out and visit, and our hosts had a large, sunny room that was perfect for company and houseflies. It wasn’t that bad, but the flies were aggravating, to say the least. They were a nuisance we all were dealing with, though, so our host had no right to brag.
Someone said, “I thought flies died in winter,” and you would think any self-respecting fly would; but these flies seemed to be getting along pretty well. What’s more, they seemed to have an immunity to sprayed insecticides.
Somebody looked it up on their phone. When the weather starts to get cold, flies move indoors and take up residence in dark corners, and hollow spaces in the walls, and other nooks and crannies, and make do till spring. They do not hibernate, but they do slow down considerably. Warm interludes draw them out into the open, i.e., the kitchen, the den, the bathroom—generally, anywhere they could be overly familiar with their human companions.
“You mean they’re in the house doing all winter what they do all summer?” the group’s squeamish gentleman asked.
“Um, yes,” replied the man with the smart-phone. “They crawl over food, they defecate wherever the mood strikes them, and they lay eggs. Flies are a nasty, germ-infested business.”
One of the ladies said emphatically, “They’re disgusting!” as she gave a heavy slap on her knee. She got the fly. As she examined the corpse, we wondered what vile disease the woman would contract and die from after squashing the germ-ridden body.
Freezing weather would return soon enough, so naturally we were concerned with the outdoor horseflies, dog flies and deer flies and inquired of the smart-phone man. These biting bugs apparently stay warm under tree bark and rotting wood. We were relieved to hear that.
What about ticks? Depending on the species, ticks either go dormant or attach themselves to a host, the smart-phone fellow informed us. “Fleas are bad, too. They can’t survive freezing weather, but their eggs can. If the fleas lay eggs in the pets’ bedding, or the carpet or something, the eggs can hatch all through winter.”
We were concerned for the scorpions, for one person had been stung by one in January years ago. “It came out of the shower drain,” he told us. “I had shampoo in my eyes, so I couldn’t see what profanity to use when it got me!”
Outdoors, scorpions go dormant through winter. Some scorpions, however, prefer to weather winter indoors, where they loaf and move sluggishly until somebody does something to rile them.
Snakes hibernate, or brumate or something, and will often as not gather in large congregations to share body warmth. They seek out caves, crevices, crawl spaces under houses, hollow logs or wood piles, and make themselves comfortable.
Bears hibernate, but this is rather tricky. While sleeping, bears are fully aware of what’s going on around them! And you can be sure, they do not like to have to leave a snug cave or den to chase off interlopers! This was something we did not know, but this knowledge is important to have in the Ouachita woods.
If you’re worried about the frogs and toads this winter, rest assured, they will be all right. So will the turtles, according to the smart-phone. As for myself, I would not think of hibernating without one.
The phone’s only shortcoming was, it had no immediate solution for dealing with the houseflies; but this is something vital to keep in mind, namely: Do not throw away your flyswatter! For technology has its limitations.