Invasion of biting insects…Ouch!

Yesterday afternoon, while chopping and dicing for dinner, I felt two sharp stings only seconds apart on each of my calves.  Startled by the sharp pain, my eyes darted around the kitchen for the nasty culprit(s), dishtowel in hand, ready to snap the life out of the perpetrator. 

Actually, I’ve become quite good at this task since I’ve spent more time in the kitchen with a towel in hand than looking for a fly swatter which is rarely handy at the opportune moment.

With the temperature in the low 90’s with humidity to match, it was impossible to keep the kitchen window shut, hoping for the little breezes that swoop off of the mountains periodically.

Most often having the kitchen window open attracts bees and typical houseflies.  Conscientious about keeping the kitchen clean and free of food debris, we’ve managed to keep the indoor flying insect population at bay.

Not yesterday.  It must have been the barometric pressure.  The horseflies were on a mission to visit me and dine. For some odd reason they seem to be attracted to me, not Tom, who seldom is bitten by anything, other than the relentless no-see-ums in Belize and the mosquitoes in Minnesota, jokingly referred to as the State Bird, when in fact the loon is the State Bird.

Dining in the kitchen last night was not fun, although we had a delicious meal of homemade mozzarella cheese stuffed Italian meatballs, topped with savory marinara sauce with sautéed mushrooms, locally made Parmesano/Reggiano cheeses, a side of grilled eggplant, seasoned with herbs from our own garden and of course, our favorite giant bowl of coleslaw. The locally grown horseflies were in Heaven with the smells wafting through the air.

Not one to wear perfume and scented products (one learns this living in Minnesota) it must be my personal scent that flying and biting insects find appealing. I found this recent article that unfortunately, didn’t provide me with a clue as to why biting insects bite me.  It’s always the same old, same old, as I sit here on the veranda with flies buzzing my head as I write this, Tom within four feet of me, safe from the wrath.

Still waiting to hear back from Budget Car Rental about swapping out our “sold” rental car, having canceled our road trip plans, we decided we’d shop for groceries today. With careful meal planning every two weeks, we found ourselves running low on a number of staples. 

Our plan was to enjoy our morning coffee with a light breakfast with a plan to head down the mountains to our favorite market in Pescia, Esselunga, almost 30 minutes away. 

Routinely checking our email during coffee time, I sat at the kitchen table, showered and dressed for the day, thoroughly savoring every swallow of fine Italian coffee, topped off with equally fine real cream.

Aware of the possibility that last night’s horseflies may still be in the vicinity along with a few bees that had joined in the festivities, my trusty white dishtowel was on my lap ready to go into action.  Distracted by a noteworthy article that popped up in my Facebook account, I didn’t notice when a flying thing landed on my towel close to my right hand. (I later noticed a smidgen of red sauce on the towel from last night that most likely attracted the creature.

Ouch!  Something bit me so hard on the pad of my palm that I literally jumped out of the kitchen chair, swatting wildly with the towel. Immediately, my hand began to swell. Our concern; not the pain, the swelling, or the redness, but was it a wasp or hornet sting that, with the intensity of the pain, set us on a path of response?

Both Tom and I are dangerously allergic to bees (used as a catchall phrase for certain flying stinging things). Last time either of us had been stung, we ended us in an emergency room, receiving Epinephrine and Cortisone injections, antihistamines, and ice packs for days.

Based on the intensity of the sting, I had no alternative but to assume it was a bee sting and react accordingly.  Of course, as we’ve mentioned before, we have several EpiPen in our medical kit in the event of such an occurrence.

Overreacting is pointless but a solid plan in place that we had previously rehearsed immediately went into action. Here were the steps we took:

1.  Immediately, I put a Benedryl tablet under my tongue for rapid absorption.
2.  Grabbed the EpiPen, reread the instructions, and placed it in my jeans pocket in the provided case. Is breathing compromised?  If so, use the EpiPen before completing the following.
3.  Used a credit card to wipe off any excess venom and stinger.
4.  Washed my hand in warm soapy water,
5.  Checked the bathroom mirror for any redness around my throat, chest, and groin area, all of which, for both Tom and I, were the bodily areas to react within minutes, besides the site of the sting.
5.  Made an icepack, promptly placing it on the affected area of my hand.
6.  Put on shoes, grab wallet and ID, more Benedryl, EpiPen, ice pack, and towel and head out the door.

Please keep in mind, the above is what we will do. Please consult your physician for instructions appropriate for you and your family members. 

Our plan was simple.  We’d drive toward Pescia where the grocery store is located along with the closest hospital to Boveglio. Normally, if there is a reaction to a bee sting it is within minutes, not hours.  It would take us a half hour to arrive at the hospital. 

With the actual use of the EpiPen, it is highly recommended that the patient immediately receive medical care.  This is a life-threatening occurrence for many people such as us, with proper medical care subsequent to the injection vital to ensure against further possible consequences. 

If there was no swelling of my throat, no systemic rash, and no massive swelling at the site of the sting, most likely it wasn’t a bee sting but a horsefly.  As we traveled down the mountain with no further reaction, Tom driving quickly but safely on the multitude of hairpin turns, I became convinced that it wasn’t a bee sting.

By the time we drove into the Esselunga grocery store parking lot, one euro was in my hand to pay for our grocery cart, my smartphone was in the other hand with our grocery store app loaded with two week’s of grocery items, and I was feeling fine.  We’d made it in 27 minutes, a good trial run.

Although a little sleepy from the Benedryl, I was ready to shop, leaving Tom in the car to read a book on his smartphone while he’d wait for an hour and fifteen minutes to come to find me. With not a word in English in the entire store, my former one hour shopping time had turned into almost two when we came to Tuscany.

In the past, getting a horsefly bite would result in a badly swollen and inflamed appendage or body part. Not the case today.  Although the now three bites (the two calf bites and the hand bite) are itching like crazy, I’m happy as a clam to having been spared.

As I write this now, I’ve moved inside to our bedroom, the totally bug-free zone where we never open the windows, use a floor stand fan and keep the bedroom door shut around the clock.  Usually, we feel fairly “safe” on the veranda with no flowers or plants nearby but today, after they were “buzzing” around my head, I’d had enough and came indoors.

Soon, back to the kitchen to make dinner, clean dishtowel in hand, I’m ready to snap those flies into oblivion to be able to enjoy another blissful evening of fine food, playing a little Gin, watching a favorite show, and idle chatter with my hubby.

In any case, it was good practice. I doubt Africa will be a bug-free zone! After digging through my suitcase, I found my Permethrin anti-insect long khaki pants, deciding to wear them during dinner. Let’s see how that works!

Its a “buggie” life…Flying insect photos from a pro..

These “bug/flying insect” photos were provided by Chris Kelly, a professional photographer on his recent visit to Tuscany.  He too, observed the vast number of flying insects inspiring him to take these excellent photos. Thanks, Chris! Great photos!
Looks like a regular bee, doesn’t it?

As a kid, when a bug, flying insect, mosquito or bees buzzed my head, I’d jump around and scream. Over the years living on a lake in Minnesota, I got over it, with an occasional jump but never a scream. Bugs were everywhere. 

By August, the wasps, yellow jackets and hornets flourished, practically dive bombing us when we attempted to enjoy the outdoors. Tom and I are both allergic to wasps and hornets.   

Over the years, on many occasions, my hand or foot would become swollen beyond recognition from a horsefly bite, with itching lasting for 10 days or more. Even a paltry mosquito bite could cause swelling and itching for days.

Really?  Please don’t stop by!

None the less, we spent considerable time outdoors days and evenings, swatting, spraying, dancing about to ward off the biting insects in Minnesota, the mosquito being the most prevalent.

When we arrived in Belize, we were plagued with the notorious no-see-ums, having as many as 100 bites at a time, they too, itching for many days and nights.  Once we moved to the air conditioned property in February with screens and air conditioning, we were well protected, especially at night.

Chris said he shot all of these insects on one single walk in Tuscany over a week ago.

The dilemma here in Boveglio boils down to the lack the screens or AC, not just on our house but in houses throughout the area.  I suppose the residents take them in their stride. We’ve yet to accomplish this feat. The exquisite blanket of vegetation covering the mountains, hills and terraced areas, provide a lush environment for flying insects along with a wide array of bugs we don’t recognize nor do we fear. 

Were it not for the risk of a serious reaction to a sting, neither of us would give it a thought.  Although anything buzzing around one’s head at night is rather annoying. As mentioned a few posts ago, we now keep all the windows and the door shut in our bedroom. Yesterday, lovely Lisa and Luca, the owners of the house, brought us a stand fan making last night’s sleep especially comfortable.

Yes, we’ve seen these buzzing around the flowering basil. No annoyance here.

Today, the temperature is in the low 90’s.  Luckily, in the evenings the temperature drops considerably. If we chose to open the windows in the bedroom at night, we may be inviting bats inside with the hundreds we’ve noticed flying around the house as we’ve sat on the veranda in the evenings. 

Yesterday morning, I heard an outrageous buzzing while chopping and dicing in the kitchen while Tom was in the other room.The kitchen window was opened. After awhile the buzzing stopped replaced by the lesser buzzing of other flying insects entering and leaving the kitchen through the open window.

This appears to be a type of moth, not so scary.

I should mention that we keep the organic waste, of which we have quite a bit due to cooking most of our meals, in a tightly closed and bagged container in the kitchen, emptying it often. We’re fully aware that such a container would surely attract bugs.  In our old life, we had garbage disposals, not the case after leaving Minnesota last Halloween. 

There are five separate containers for recycling down in the trash area. We sort and remove all of our trash frequently, keeping all windows closed anywhere near the  outdoor trash area.

Most likely, this insect doesn’t sting.

Back to the outrageous buzzing. This morning, again while chopping and dicing, I heard it again as did Tom.  Looking up at the log ceiling in the kitchen, we saw a yellow jacket or hornet coming out of a small opening near the mortar and the wood. Oh, no! Its making a nest inside the kitchen. Somehow, we shooed it outside the window.  Minutes later it came back inside working its way back inside the little hole in the ceiling.

Not feeling like driving down the mountain today to get some type of spray, our only option for today was to shoo the thing outside once more, when we weren’t able to kill it and proceed to close all the windows in the house.

These things are clever. Shall we wait to see if 25 baby hornets are born in the kitchen soon or shall we drive down the mountain to find a hardware store in order to purchase an appropriate spray (first, we’ll translate the possible verbiage).

Wanting to be outside awhile ago we spent an hour on the patio in our chaise lounges, swatting the flying things. With the herb garden growing within a foot of us, they were swarming us for the entire hour. Back inside, we’re now on the less-“buggie” veranda with a few flies, an occasional bee and less often, a gigantic loud hairy black dive bomber.

This resembles a beetle, not necessarily a stinging insect.

While researching the Internet this morning for possible solutions and descriptions of these flying insects, I stumbled across these amazing photos of a sampling of a few of the flying insects of Tuscany, taken by a professional photographer, Chris Kelly (yes, I’m jealous!) writing to him asking permission to use his photos. As it turns out he took these photos in Tuscany while he was vacationing here only a week ago. Chris was delighted to share his work, as us “web geeks” often are. 

Naming these must be left to the bug experts of the world. Please comment if you know the names of any of these. With literally millions of species on flying insects, it would be an impossible task to find their varieties in order to name them correctly.

As an aside, this morning while chopping and dicing I had intended to make a salmon salad using canned salmon as one would use canned tuna. We’d purchased two such cans while shopping a few weeks ago. 

With Tom having the leftover taco salad tonight, I though a big bowl of salmon salad atop shredded romaine lettuce and raw sliced veggies would be a perfect meal for me, along with plate of steamed green beans and sautéed eggplant. 

Whenever we have leftovers which is only enough for one of us, I make a single separate dinner for the other. Waste not, want not. Never wasting a morsel of food is our motto, hardly ever throwing away any leftovers. 

After chopping the fresh crispy celery, purple onion and hard boiled eggs using the Mezzaluna knife (see instruction video), placing them in a large mixing bowl, I opened the big can of salmon, poured off the excess juice and dumped it into the bowl. 

Instead of a glob of salmon freely popping out of the can, it was a batch of about 10 small fish. It was mackerel! Yikes and yuck! Well, my “waste not, want not” theory kicks in as I continued to make the salad. That’s my dinner tonight! I’ll have to eat the entire bowl so we won’t have more organic waste to attract more flying insects.