Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Creepy Crawlies

“There was a time when giants roamed the Earth.

“No, not those giants, the dinosaurs that stomped and slogged their way through the Mesozoic Era. These giants crawled and crept, slithered and scurried, burrowed, slinked, skittered and, above all, flitted and fluttered millions of years before the dinosaurs arrived.

“They were the giant arthropods of the Carboniferous.

“There were extra-large mayflies, super-sized scorpions and spiders the size of a healthy spider plant. There was an array of giant flightless insects, and a five-foot-long millipede-like creature, Arthropleura, that resembled a tire tread rolled out flat.

“But perhaps the most remarkable of all were the giant dragonflies, Meganeuropsis permiana and its cousins, with wingspans that reached two and a half feet. They were the largest insects that ever lived.

“These large species thrived about 300 million years ago, when much of the land was lush and tropical and there was an explosion of vascular plants (which later formed coal, which is why the period is called the Carboniferous). But the giant species were gone by the middle to late Permian, some 50 million years later.”*

Except in New Jersey.

Well, maybe the giant dragonflies are gone, but New Jersey certainly has its share of mosquitoes, gnats, midges, fireflies, horseflies, deerflies, mayflies, lacewings, moths, crickets, grasshoppers, katykids and millions of other bothersome buzzers, that all seem to congregate along my running paths just about the time I’m coming through in the morning, now that summer is here.

There must just not be enough bats to eat them all up overnight.

Adding to the airborne threats, I’m also joined my ticks, chiggers, fleas and other ankle biters that make a post run shoe / sock / ankle / calf inspection a necessity.

It seems odd to start the day with a liberal application of bug spray while my mouth is still minty wake-up fresh; but that’s the way it has to be if I don’t want to come home as leftovers from some arthropodic breakfast buffet.

To add an added layer of protection against New Jersey’s official state malady – Lyme’s Disease – I have adopted a trick a friend of ours brought back from Gulf War I. To combat the giant sand fleas in Saudi Arabia, her company would tie flea and tick collars around their boots, as many as half a dozen per foot. My running shoes have a loop in the back to accomplish this; I weave the extra under the laces to minimize flopping and tripping.

Now if I could just rig an early warning system to keep the spider webs out of my face.

* “When Giants Had Wings and 6 Legs” By Henry Fountain – NY Times, February 3, 2004

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