Spring has sprung here in the South! It’s a two week period when the temperatures and humidity are both below 90. This weekend, yards, parks, hiking trails and beaches will be filled with Southerners at work and play in the warm sunshine. However, those same people will soon be running to Wal-Mart or Home Depot for the necessary weapons and armor for battling the season of swatting, slapping, spraying and scratching, which usually lasts from April to November.
The mid-April arrival of no-see-ums,mosquitoes, gnats, palmetto bugs, hornets, bees, flies, and fleas is our signal that spring is over and summer is upon us. Even after so many years of living down here, such an early onset strikes me the same as hearing Christmas carols when shopping for Halloween candy. I’ve learned to keep a fly swatter, citronella candles and oil, Skin So Soft and cortisone cream handy whenever I’m outdoors.
Archenemy No. 1 among these pests is, of course, the fire ant. They double the risks of going barefoot because their massive mounds punctuate our spiky centipede grass lawns. And they don’t need a reason to attack. You can be sitting on your front porch stoop minding your own business when a single fire ant will decide to leave the nest, crawl across the sidewalk, up your leg and then – Zzzzzzt! – set your leg on fire. The resulting itch begins immediately, and within a few hours you have a nasty, itchy pustule disfiguring your lovely tanned leg. You will scratch it open (risking infection!) approximately five times over the next week before it heals.
I’m allergic to fire ants. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been out in my yard or garden and unwittingly stepped into a mound that wasn’t there the day before. I doubt even Usain Bolt can run as fast I do for the Benadryl when that happens.
Fire ants are a Southern pest but are slowly making their way north toward the Mason-Dixon Line. Is that the South’s revenge for Gen. Sherman’s fiery march? Not surprisingly, despite proof to the contrary, many Southerners swear that grits are an effective deterrent in the war against fire ants. I’m not sure if Cream of Wheat will do the trick, but I’m sure we’ll eventually find out.
Take a look at this bona fide Southern belle telling her fire ant story to Ellen. It could happen to anyone.