June 08, 2011
Biting Bugs: How Deer Flee The Spring Swarms
By Scott Bestul
One of the great things about summer is that whitetails are often highly visible. We see them in fields and pastures long before dusk, and sometimes in the middle of the day. There are lots of explanations for this; deer often eat grasses and forbs that grow in open areas, does drop and tend fawns in openings and other visible spots, and whitetails are simply less nervous about human contact this time of year.
Then there’s the insect issue. If you venture in or near the timber in summer, it’s pretty common to get swarmed by bugs. Deer flies, gnats, mosquitoes, no-see-ums...everything that flies and bites people is equally zealous about chewing on deer, and life can get exceedingly miserable in wooded areas when the conditions are right. Or, I guess, wrong. I haven’t spent a lot of time banging around the timber yet, but in my little exposure I’d rate this as a record summer for gnats and small biting bugs.
One of the classic whitetails defense mechanisms for dealing with biting insects is to flee to open areas like fields, pastures and even roadways. Then again, some deer are more creative than others. The doe in this photo has retreated to a shed, where she’s found sanctuary from insects by bedding in a pile of sawdust. Obviously this doe must agree with my assessment of the gnat population; when her fear of bugs overrides her fear of humans, things must be pretty bad!