When people think about Death Valley hazards, they think about rattlesnakes, heat, and scorpions. They don’t think about the hazards we have experienced so far: mice with hantavirus and earthquakes. But the hazard that has irritated me the most has been the Buffalo gnats.
Buffalo gnats sound like harmless herds but they are really biting black flies and they swarm everywhere. The first day we came to Death Valley, I got bit by one. Not only does the bite hurt, it also swells and gets red and it ITCHES. I mean REALLY ITCHES. One of the worst itches I have ever experienced. The bite continues to itch constantly for a week, at which point it finally stops. The Buffalo gnat bite itches so much that I have to put a bandaid over it or else I scratch it in my sleep so badly that it bleeds.
I usually have five or six bites at a time. Last week, when I was walking back and forth to the laundry room, I wore sandals and ended up with eight bites on my ankles. They don’t seem to bite Tom as much – I must be sweeter or more tender – but they love me. I’ve only found one person who works here that they like better than me. His name is Mark and the only time the Buffalo gnats leave me alone is when I am standing next to him.
Fortunately they can’t fly when it is windy and it is windy a lot here. They also don’t like the mountain canyons – too dry for them – so the hiking has been okay. The Buffalo gnats love hanging around Scotty’s Castle because we have a spring and they like to be around water. On days I have to stand by the gate, I bathe in mosquito repellent which does a good job of keeping them away.
All in all, the Buffalo gnats are a small price to pay for unlimited sunshine and warm temperatures. As long as I can remember not to scratch!