Cambrian: Opinion

Mountain Musings: Dealing with the insect-infested dog days of August

The western fence lizard is more popularly known as the “blue-bellied” lizard.
The western fence lizard is more popularly known as the “blue-bellied” lizard. PHOTO BY MICHELE OKSEN

On a Santa Lucia Mountain eastern slope, facing Lake Nacimiento, a typical day in August is spent behind screened-in open windows and doors, away from the bugs. No matter what, try not to let any inside. Not even one. It’s hard to write, cook, clean or relax while constantly swiping at winged pests every second. Deer flies hover near eyes, nostrils and ears. They never stop. Their high-pitched hum and the tickle of their tiny feet on skin could drive you bonkers.

To inhale through the mouth is to risk swallowing one of these insects— which is great if you’re a blue-bellied lizard—not so nice when you’re human. Open your mouth and deer flies will surely speed toward that dangling fleshy landing pad (the uvula) and once inside, no matter how much you gag, cough, and sputter, the fly stays stuck at the back of the throat, which is annoying, until it’s washed down the hatch—after which it’s just disgusting.

Then there’s always the fly that goes for the ear and gets far enough down the canal to get caught. Like the lizard and spider prey that it is, the fly fights to free itself while it gets entangled in a web of ear hair—oh, they really hit the glass shattering high notes then. The noise reverberates directly to the drum. A screaming struggling deer fly inside the ear is like an eyelash under an eyelid or a redwood splinter under the skin — it cannot be ignored. It must be removed, like, now.

During summer months, life in the backcountry of Cambria can be uncomfortable and inconvenient. Guaranteed there will be wild rice-sized flies in your face. There will be smoke in the air that wafts by, raises every hair and turns the heart dial to high speed. And yes, there will be days when heat stifles the will to work or even walk (105 degrees and above are not unheard of).

When in the woodlands, if you care to sit on a porch or at a picnic table, your tolerance will be tested. You could make a fashion statement in your bee keeper’s hood or you could just make sure you leave one hand free for doing the wilderness wave.

Michele Oksen’s column is special to The Cambrian. Email the resident of Cambria’s mountain community in the Santa Lucia range at