GENUINE question: Can horse flies have a vendetta against a person?
I always figured the bites and stings of the insects that live amongst us were random, opportunist strikes - done in the heat of the moment. That when bees, wasps, and bugs attack a human, it is a natural reaction to scare us off, or to have a quick feed of blood. Yuk.
But, in the past few weeks, I’ve started to wonder whether their tiny brains actually are capable of targeting certain individuals and making their lives hell.
Yes, you guessed it, that individual in this case is me. And no, hell is hardly an over-reaction.
The story of this war between Man and Horse Fly begins a fortnight ago, when I was out on my daily walk - a pleasant uphill/downhill trek beside my house, where I can get away from the laptop, the kids, and 24/7 communication, listen to my Spotify, and nurture my physical and mental wellbeing.
I’ve been doing the walk for years, and only ever suffered the odd bite, usually from midges and gnats.
But, around the middle of March, on my walk, I sensed the presence of a larger insect than the usual midge, buzzing around me. I swatted it away, it took a nip of my hand, and that, I thought, was that.
I was unsure if it was a bee or a wasp at that stage, but when the bite turned into a sizeable lump and itched for a couple of days, I realised we were dealing with something else.
And that should have been that. Except it was merely the first skirmish in an ongoing war.
On my next walk, in exactly the same spot, the same insect (I assume) struck again, as though it had been lying in wait for me on the secluded path where no other human ventures. And this time the bugger wasn’t taking any prisoners.
The only word I can use for what that insect did was attack. It went for my arms, my neck, it got into my clothing, I could feel it wriggling around. I could feel the painful little nips.
Reader, I then did what any sane, mature, middle-aged man would have done in that situation. I panicked and ran,
Now, picture this scene. A man of advancing years has broken into a run downhill, and is now unable to slow down, never mind stop. Then I took my jumper off and started waving it around madly above my head.
Yes, you read that right.
Feeling the insect rummaging about in my jumper, I opted to turn this bizarre outdoor scene into a farce by removing said top and waving it frantically round in the air, as I continued to run downhill, hoping the blighter would scoot off.
Finally, at the bottom of the hill, I came to a stop and threw my jumper on the ground to examine its contents. And there it was, still sitting there, a bug the size of a wasp with a stripy look a bit like a wasp.
Only I’ve been stung by plenty of wasps - hey, I was born unlucky, right - and this wasn’t a wasp.
The bug flew off, I gingerly picked up my jumper, and cancelled the walk, heading home chastened and defeated, and already sensing the rising, itchy swellings on my skin.
I consulted Dr Google, and my identity parade soon pinpointed (ouch) the culprit: A horse fly.
Let me tell you a little of what I have learned about the horse fly (the squeamish may want to look away).
Their bite differs from that of a mosquito, for instance, in that the latter releases a mild anaesthetic, horseflies don’t - which is one of the reasons their bites are so painful. The fact they cut into the flesh with saw-like mouthpieces rather crudely only adds to this pain.
The horse fly, and this is the really horrible part, has an anticoagulant in its saliva which prevents your blood from clotting as the insect sucks up its meal. Yes, they sink a proboscis into you and lap up your blood as it flows freely from the wound.
I know, horrible...
If these feckers aren’t on some endangered list, then, by God, they bloody should be.
But my story doesn’t end there.
No, you see, I enjoy and treasure my daily exercise, so this week, I decided to venture out again. This time, I was prepared.
I had a hoodie, jeans and socks on, and when I neared the horse fly’s territory, I even wrapped my hands into my jumper, so that the only exposed bit of flesh was my face.
Ha. I was ready for it.
Reader, you will not believe this, but in the exact same spot as before, the horse fly suddenly loomed in front of me out of nowhere and made straight for my forehead. It all happened in the blink of an eye - and yes, I did blink - but I knew instantly that it had got me again.
Heaven knows it was only a split second so it can only have been a bite, not a bloodsucking orgy, but still, the wound grew into a lump and, since it was close to my eye, it affected that too, as it watered for two days.
Those of you who believe the female of the species is more deadly than the male will not be surprised to learn it is the mummy horse fly that does all the biting and bloodsucking. The males, er, just sit around and eat. Ahem.
Female horseflies bite when they need blood to develop their eggs, so, not to come over all David Attenborough, but it appears this maternal horse fly has singled me out like a vampire so it can raise its disgusting next generation.
This has all left me feeling like someone with a mild dose of post traumatic stress disorder. The thought of venturing up that path again terrifies me. I refuse to do so until I know the horse fly is dead and with O’Leary in the grave..
Where did she come from? Hell knows. How long will she prowl there? Well, apparently, horse flies live for 30-60 days, so I may have to sit out my exercise for a few more weeks before I dare to venture out.
And what happens if my enemy’s children develop a taste for me too?
My wife says I am over-thinking this, but a future in which the horse fly rules the land doesn’t bear thinking about.