I hope I don’t jinx it now by writing about it. You know how that goes – you’re bragging to your visitor from down south about your sure-fire fishing spot, the unbelievably huge catches that are almost guaranteed there. Then you go, your happy visitor in tow whose pinnacle of fishing excitement so far was the six-inch pike he caught as a kid. And: nothing. Not a single strike. You curse yourself. Shouldn’t have bragged about it, shouldn’t have brought this guy who doesn’t know a rod from a toothpick, who wouldn’t know a salmon from a trout. But it’s too late. You jinxed it.
Now that I have diverted the attention of the mysterious powers that jinx things to fish, here is what I really meant to say: there are hardly any bugs this year. Zip, none! Well, OK, there are a few mosquitoes in the really boggy places, but overall – there’s hardly any there. Have you noticed? Not you city folks of course, pampered by mosquito control programs, but people out in the communities, down the dusty gravel roads and out in the bush?
You don’t need to slather yourself with unpronounceable chemicals, throw green wood for smoke on your campfire and suffer heatstroke from wearing long-sleeved shirts or fight claustrophobia within the confines of a head net. No, it’s actually possible to be outside, just sit there even, and thoroughly enjoy it. You can keep your blood to yourself. The terrifying high-pitched whine of millions of mosquitoes honing in on you just isn’t there.
It’s weird. I keep waiting for the bugs to arrive, to drive me crazy as they do every summer. But they’re just not coming and it’s a bit disappointing because my preparations for bug season went smoothly and without a hitch. Usually I’m short of something, but not this year. Figures. Screen door in – check. Repellant, both non-toxic and toxic – check. Mosquito coils – check. New batteries in the electronic mosquito swatter – check. Mosquito net over the bed – check.
So here I am, out in bug country, where I’d normally have annihilated about 15 to 20 bugs just in the time it took me to write this much (and I’m talking inside the cabin), and I feel strangely bereft. Somehow I miss those buggers. I’m not quite ready to go and chain myself to a stagnant puddle wiggling with mosquito larva to protest against their sudden demise – besides, how do you chain yourself to a puddle? – but it really has me wondering.
What happened and does the lack of millions of pesky insects matter? Is it enough of a dent to make it hard for some birds to feed their young? At the same time, the air seems to be full of tiny green caterpillars dangling by a silken thread from trees like so many lures from a fishing line. Maybe these guys make up for the lack of bloodsuckers in terms of bird feed.
I haven’t heard of any conspiracy theory yet that convincingly explains this die-off. My own theory leans towards the smaller snow pack last winter resulting in fewer stagnant pools of water, and the hot weather in May (remember? That might have been our summer for this year) encouraging voracious breeding among the thawed-out bugs, only to brutally kill the larvae with the nippy frosts we suddenly had in June. But it might be more dramatic than that, some political scheme behind it all. I don’t know.
Now I’m sure there must be bugged-in areas in the Yukon somewhere and readers there will think I’ve completely lost my marbles or start packing their things to move in with me. I’m sorry, but please stay where you are, those bugs might follow you. I don’t miss them that much. It’s more of a theoretical, nostalgic feeling, if you know what I mean. Some of us just have to suffer each year and this might be your turn.
And if the bugs should suddenly come out now – I refuse to take any responsibility for it. Jinxing things is a sad and outdated superstition that should not be encouraged among the general public, so please refrain from sending me any hate mail. Just lean back and let them suck your blood. It wasn’t my fault.
Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the headwaters of the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.