Mid- to late July is my least favorite time of year at RMBL. It’s hot and dusty, there are tons of tourists, we’re super busy with pup trapping…and there are the biting flies. Numerous, relentless, buzzing, biting, blood-sucking…can you tell I’m not a fan? The flies are at best annoying and at worst give lots of painful bites that result in excruciatingly itchy bumps and to which I have rather extreme allergic reactions. Parasites can have a big effect on host behaviors, and needless to say, I go to great lengths to try and avoid their bites. And while some strategies are more successful than others, all result in rather amusing (in retrospect) behaviors.
Fly time is unhappy time for animals and people. (Photo: George Aldridge)
Some of my emergent behaviors are simply a reaction to the flies in the moment. For example, sometimes I’ll endure the flies for a while, and then suddenly freak out and do a crazy dance, which involves a lot of hopping around and wildly waving arms and erratic slapping motions. Also, I am normally a rather slow jogger, but during fly season, my pace quickens drastically in a desperate attempt to outrun the flies (they consistently catch up to me if I let myself fall into to my usual, comfortable slow pace). If I had to deal with flies all the time, I’d have to either quit jogging or get a whole lot faster.
Other behavioral changes involve modifying my habits. During the hottest time of year, I tend to cover up as much of myself as possible. I wear long sleeves, long pants, hats and hoods, and often even gloves. Sometimes even this is not successful, as I’ve gotten bitten on the tips of fingers any number of times because I had a hole in my gloves. So now you’ll understand why, if you’re ever traveling through RMBL on a hot dry sunny July day, you might just happen to spot some marmot researchers looking like this:
(I don't remember who took these photos. If anyone out there does, please let me know!)