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OPINION | ARKANSAS SPORTSMAN: Horseflies a big hurdle to doing woodland chores

by Bryan Hendricks | September 5, 2021 at 2:21 a.m.

Horseflies bother me worst of all.

I can tolerate the heat, and mosquito repellent preserves my blood supply, but I hate horseflies more than anything. I want to kill them all.

Horseflies are a particular menace at my deer lease in Grant County, where a long list of chores awaits. I need to refresh shooting lanes and create new ones through brush and thickets. I need to take down an old stand that I haven't used in years. I need to clear wasps and fire ants from feeders. I hate fire ants as much as I hate horseflies but on a different level.

Fire ants are hostile squatters. They take over property that doesn't belong to them, and they defend it aggressively. You don't know you're in trouble until it's too late. For me, it usually happens when I unscrew the lid from a battery compartment where Lucifer's legions have established a nest. Next thing I know, they've covered my arm. By that time, the entire colony is mobilized for combat, and any further activity is suspended until I can deploy chemical warfare. And believe me, I do. There's always a can of bug spray in the front basket of my four-wheeler.

But those are just property disputes. They are quickly and decisively resolved, albeit only after having experienced a fair amount of pain and residual itching.

Red wasps are a level above fire ants. Again, my conflicts with them are almost always property disputes. They also build nests inside feeders, but you don't know it until Lucifer's air force is upon you. They enter a feeder through the discharge cone, and they fly out in a rage the minute you jostle the thing.

More hazardous encounters occur at higher altitudes inside box stands I haven't visited since December. The only way to escape a wasp swarm is to go down, but it is very important to go down on your own terms, at a responsible speed while still complying with the stability triangle.

Wasp stings are more serious, but wasp spray resolves that conflict quickly and decisively, as well.

A spider lives in a corner of my kitchen window next to where I do most of my writing. A red wasp was recently loose in my kitchen, and I got a good lick in on him with a fly swatter. Wasps are very tough, so it was not a fatal strike. However, it did disable the wasp momentarily, and it fell down into the spider's web. Man, that spider was on that wasp like a starving dog on a table scrap! He put the fangs in the wasp and then wrapped it up like a Thanksgiving turkey.

I did a Mark Gastineau "sack dance" and taunted the wasp as John Cleese taunted King Arthur in his quest for the Holy Grail. "Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries!"

The spider and I gave each other a virtual high-five. She got the bucket, and I got the assist. That's why I don't evict the spider. We're teammates.

Horseflies are guerrilla warriors. They seem to materialize from the soil. They are big, fast and loud, and they bite the instant they land. They don't operate in brigades and squadrons the way ants and wasps do, instead attacking haphazardly in a manner betting their squalid little antisocial personalities.

Fortunately, they are fragile. Even a glancing blow to a horsefly buzzing my head will put him on the ground, and then I attempt to grind his sorry little rear to the earth's core.

I bought an electric fly swatter just for horseflies. The protective mesh is too fine to allow a horsefly to reach the electrical grid beneath, but I can still knock a horsefly out of the park with it.

There's not much else to do about them, though, except maybe wear light colors. Horseflies seem to attract to dark colors. I wear white shirts when I work in the woods. Horseflies buzz all around, but they don't seem to land on me as much as they do if I wear dark shirts.

Ultimately, though, they are simply too big a hassle. I enjoy working in the woods, and horseflies harsh my mellow.

That's really inconvenient because time is becoming an issue. Archery deer season opens Sept. 24, and although I won't hunt until the weather turns cool, there is still much to do.

I'll get it done. I always do, with or without horseflies.

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