Opinion: No-see-ums? I-see-um all over Taos

By Rick Haltermann, El Prado
Posted 7/11/19

The recent no-see-um season has felt like a barbarian invasion with attendant battle scars openly revealed in the aisles of the grocery stores. My own dentist showed me half-inch welt rings above his …

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Opinion: No-see-ums? I-see-um all over Taos


The recent no-see-um season has felt like a barbarian invasion with attendant battle scars openly revealed in the aisles of the grocery stores. My own dentist showed me half-inch welt rings above his sock line giving new meaning to the idea of natural selection. Maybe, in the Taos open spiritual tradition, these flying tormentors have come to teach us all about nondiscrimination. Or that immigration is not an exclusively human issue. Facts can be so pesky when it comes to denial.

Thanks to being partly sequestered in my house during this onslaught, I did a little bit of research to discover some interesting facts. Our miniraptors are part of the fly family specifically known as Ceratopogonidae or biting midges. There are up to 5,000 subspecies with sightings as remote as Mount Everest. Males and females use plant nectar for food while the females rely on blood meal in order to make babies--up to 400 at a time, five to seven hatchings in a lifetime. They love light and are especially attracted to the odors of carbon dioxide and lactic acid. So if you are a breathing, moving human who happens to be outdoors, you're on the menu.

Once again the complexity of women wins the day since the men are only vegan while their mates are both vegan and vampires. (The old-school guys sitting around the bar will have a hayday with that one.) In defense of the mothers, their agendas have never been hidden. Also, no-see-ums (along with gull midges) are what pollinate the cacao tree which produces cocoa beans to make, yes, chocolate. Maybe a few welts and some itching are the karmic debt for our indulgences?

Then I realized two things; that regular window screens for these minute beings are as fun as jumping turnstiles in New York City and they love anything that emits light. So a few nights ago I kept the windows closed, lights off and plugged in a guitar and played by the soft glow coming from a sound processor and an amplifier. Just like glamping!

Once I risk leaving the safety of my home, I have a few options. There is gooping up with repellent along with long sleeves, pants, socks, hat and a taser in order to work outside. Or swimming laps, which is a perfect refuge. Wet body, no bugs. Or going hiking in the high country where spring azure butterflies are much more pleasing flying companions. Or simply buying groceries where I can compare wounds with my friends and neighbors. Thank you to all of the local stores for your air conditioning.

Which brings up the obvious question besides blood as far as what makes Taos so attractive for a couple of weeks a year? It certainly isn't the bike trails, the few remaining live music venues or the dwindling theater scene. I'm just guessing, but perhaps it's the fabulous Northern New Mexico landscape, the restaurant outdoor patios and lots of breathing, moving humans. That and the perfect combination of a wet spring and warm temperatures.

Since this is something that can be expected yearly, why not put the wheels of marketing into motion? Here are some ideas: Taos-- Apocalypse Now, Taos-- Huge Views, Small Problems, Taos--How Good Is Your Repellent? and Taos--Where the Unseen Is Apparent. Now we could have the Lilac Festival then Memorial Day weekend followed by the June Swatfest. How about the Solstice No-See-Um Stampede? Might as well have some fun with it.

Maybe I'm getting tired of living in a defensive mode. There's that nondiscrimination lesson. And maybe it's time to move on, honor that Joy Harjo, a Native American from the Muscogee Nation, has been named poet laureate of the United States, which may be a good reason to celebrate summer, the blossoming of the year and that anything is still possible.

Rick Haltermann is author of "Curriculum of the Soul," host of The Jazz Show on KTAO, performs with Cullen Winter's Rhythm and Bluesmobile and tries to avoid no-see-ums at home in El Prado.


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