Insect Bites (5 Kinds!) and Poison Ivy

The other day Tom looked up from examining his legs and told me “I have five kinds of insect bites on my legs as well as poison ivy.”  I realized that I had the same, and we commiserated for a while.

Sand gnat

Coastal Georgia has an abundance of insects because they don’t have a freezing season where the insects die.  In fact, in 2019 and 2020, St. Simon’s Island only had a handful of nights below freezing, not nearly enough to kill off the insects.  That’s one good thing the people who live in the north don’t think about much – you get rid of your insects in the winter.

I’ve written before about insect bites from sand gnats.  They have been just as bad as ever this year, but now that it is getting hotter there aren’t as many of them.

We have also been battling tick insect bites.  Ticks bother us the most because they don’t just bite and go away – they hang around.  So we have to pluck them off.  Tom and I are averaging three or four a week, no matter how careful we try to be.  We have tick checks whenever we go outside.  I usually think of ticks coming up from the grass, and that is where we find most of them.  But here they also drop down from the Spanish Moss in the trees – we joke about kamikaze ticks.  So we have to check necks and torsos as well as legs.

The mosquitoes are the least annoying insect bites at the moment.  Of course, by evening we are usually so coated with Deep Woods Off that they can’t penetrate our repellent.  It may be that mosquitoes will become more prevalent as the weather gets warmer.  We have never been here in May and June before, so we will see.  At least the insect repellent works well against them.

Chiggers are a little bug with a big bite.  The larval form is what bite you and they don’t dig down into the skin – a common misconception.  But their bites can itch like crazy.  I got my first chigger bites this year and I thought it was poison ivy.  It looks very similar, you can have lots of them in one area, and they blister like poison ivy.  I can mostly avoid chiggers by staying out of tall grass.

By far the most annoying insect bites are the greenhead horse flies.  These are big horse flies that live around the salt marshes of Georgia.  They have green heads, hence their name.  Greenheads are a biting fly that injects an anticoagulant so they can eat more of your blood.  They are large and persistent and insect repellent doesn’t deter them.  I’ve taken to wearing my mosquito netting when I am taking a walk along the marsh.  Their bites hurt, but they don’t itch as long as the other culprits.

Finally, of course, is the poison ivy which grows like a weed around here.  It is everywhere, but easy to avoid when you stay on cleared trails.  I usually have a few dots of it, but my allergy medicine helps keep it at bay.

The insect bites can make life pretty miserable.  Sometimes Tom and I will avoid taking a walk because we know the bugs will be bad.  But I usually decide that the walk is worth it – as long as I am outfitted with the proper gear.  Mosquito netting, long sleeves and pants, and Deep Woods Off.