Beware the Greenhead fly

 The green-eyed bane of our beach basking experience has a cure in a green bottle

You have only a few days left to experience a Greenhead bite
No Cape vacation is complete without one, but we have a remedy

The August high tides this weekend will take with them this entire 2007 generation of Greenhead Flies, the bane of the boater and bather.

What is a "greenhead"?
Greenhead, Tabanus americanus Forester: Length about 7/8-1 1/8" (22-28 mm) light brown in color with eyes bright green, thorax and abdomen reddish brown, wings with markings only along front edge; found throughout eastern U.S. west to Mississippi River and eastern Texas, also southern Canada are most abundant from July through August.
   The salt marsh horse fly often called the greenhead fly actually describes two cryptic species Tabanus nigrovittatus and Tabanus contenninus. The entire life cycle takes place on and around the salt marsh.
   The eggs are laid on salt marsh grass (Spartina spp.) and slide off for a month of mischief on our exposed body parts.
They appear during a similar tide in July, and stay around biting us for a month.

From the Cape Cod Canal to Ptown , anyone basking on our beaches between the full moons of July and August can pretty much be guaranteed a bite or three by the female greenhead fly.

The breed is resistant to insecticides and so plentiful that entomologists at Rutgers University have trapped them at a rate of 1,000 per hour. Luckily for us they are found in far greater numbers in that truncated cape to our north.

The first greenhead arrives with the first wave of school-free vacationers around the July Fourth weekend, and the last one leaves around now after a month of feasting on our flesh.

And despite our placing a man on the moon, winning the Cold War and having the "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq, America has not yet found an effective repellent against this pesky, green-eyed carnivores.

That is, everyone in America except Stephen X. Peckham of Centerville and Nantucket.

The Fly
God in His wisdom
made the fly
And then forgot
to tell us why
   ~Ogden Nash,
"Tanker A? What in darnation is Tanker A?"

Steve, the X stands for his language skills, has discovered the perfect, effective and eagerly sought preventative lotion.


And not just any gin, Tanqueray Gin. 

No, this is not a joke. I am a teetotaler ("Lips which touch whiskey will never touch mine"), and I have seen the proof with my own eyes at  Stephen Peckham's "Live Earth" party last month.

The greenheads weren't invited but arrived with the dessert, and soon the fair damsels, bare-legged as usual, were slapping away at these one-inch long, green-eyed insects.

That's when Steve brought out his bottle of Tanqueray Gin...  and began to swab in all over the lasses' legs.

And they were instantly free from the Greenheads.  Honestly, it works, or at least it works until you get pulled over by a State Trooper on your drive home and try to explain the gin stench in your car. 

Ode to Peckham's Pest Punch 

Since all great men need a Boswell, I'll be Steve's with the following limerick;

Said Peckham, whose first name is Steve,
"Greenhead bites are a cinch to relieve.
     While I agree it's a sin,
     To waste a good gin,
Tangueray works the best, I believe." welcomes thoughtful comments and the varied opinions of our readers. We are in no way obligated to post or allow comments that our moderators deem inappropriate. We reserve the right to delete comments we perceive as profane, vulgar, threatening, offensive, racially-biased, homophobic, slanderous, hateful or just plain rude. Commenters may not attack or insult other commenters, readers or writers. Commenters who persist in posting inappropriate comments will be banned from commenting on