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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Blitzing the Bugs

Bugs are the third element (after beer and brats) in any traditional Wisconsin cookout.

In June of 1820 James Doty found "The musquitoes are very thick [on Lake Superior] but the sand fly, a small insect, is more numerous and much more annoying. It is impossible to sleep where they are. Their bite is like the prick of a needle."

Northwoods loggers told of mosquitoes so immense that "the naturalist in Paul Bunyan's camp classified these as birds. When Paul was logging in the Chippewa River region the mosquitos were particularly troublesome. They were so big that they could straddle the stream and pick the passing lumberjacks off the log drive. Sometimes a logging crew would find one in this position, quickly tie his legs to convenient trees and use him for a bridge across the river.

"Paul imported from Texas a drove of fighting bumblebees to combat the mosquitos. They fought for a while, then made peace and intermarried. The result of this crossing made the situation worse than ever before for the loggers. The offspring had stingers at both ends."

The prevalence and persistence of Wisconsin mosquitoes led to a variety of attempts to eradicate them, including the "Blitz Fog" chemical cocktail show here. We were slow to realize the pernicious effects of such chemicals on plants, soil, water, and animals (including humans). Eventually, though, policy makers such as the late Sen. Gaylord Nelson began to enact legislation to protect the environment. Read more about the modern environmental movement here.
:: Posted in Animals on July 28, 2010

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