Best Beloved’s web diligence and some subsequent google-fu has revealed a likely culprit for the bites: Blandford Fly (not the beer). Looking at that and other / linksshows a lot of matches. Small, black flies 2-3mm in length? Check (there were a lot them about). Oxfordshire? Check. Bites predominantly, indeed exclusively on lower legs? Check. Above all the descriptions of the bite sound about right, apart from the fact that I didn’t feel anything until it was too late. Maybe weeding is such an itchy process anyway that I just tuned it out. Hmm: not disease carriers (good) but secondary infections are possible (bad) …
For what it’s worth the red patches are consolidating, shrinking a little and turning more purple. I spent most of yesterday tired and cold and was in bed by 9, which was probably a reaction to several gallons of toxin in my bloodstream but not quite enough to warrant taking time off work.
Apparently the biters would all have been female, requiring a blood meal before or after mating to produce hundreds of eggs. I’ve never before been swarmed by sex-crazed females and it’s a shame that when it finally happens they all turn out to be insects, but I’m glad I could perform a service.
I am advised by my wife, arbiter of taste in these matters, that the blogosphere probably doesn’t want a photo of my partially and patchily shaved legs. No accounting for it if you ask me, but for the time being I’ll keep it to myself.
We weeded and we weeded good in yesterday’s sunshine, filling a brown bin from empty. I wore shorts … and meanwhile the local insect life indicated its opinion of this loss of habitat the way it knows best. Only at the end of the day did I look down and notice the machine gun-like trails of holes in my shins and calfs, each with a little drop of blood attached. I thought this probably wasn’t good. I was right.
Each bite – 16 at the last count, 6 on the left, 10 on the right – is now at least the size of a 10p piece, so that’s at least £1.60 worth of bites, which is a heck of lot, I can tell you. (Update: with inflation, let’s now say at least £2.00.) Hence the partial and patchy shaving – it’s much easier to rub soothing unguent into smooth skin than into a forest of leg hair. I won’t be wearing shorts again for a while. Fortunately the weather today seems to agree.
The good news is that despite all that close contact with plant life I didn’t get a tickle or a sniffle, probably because all the histamines were rushing down past my knees.