The bugs in Sweden were a bit of a surprise.
Letter from Sweden by Gary (not Alistair) Cook
Letter dated 10 July 2021
Bugs. Sweden seems to have more than its fair share. In particular, mosquitoes. They are not only plentiful, they are big as well. Fortunately, with great size comes great slowness making them easy to squish. Mind you, they more often than not get a good sting in first.
Being an Australian, I’m used to mozzies. I grew up with many days filled with their awful buzzing. One night spent beneath a mosquito net with a single Aussie Mozzie flying around is enough to send a happy camper running for the hills. And, they are very quick to avoid any kind of human intervention. Like flappy hands.
Mind you, they rarely bit me in Australia. I always thought it was because my blood alcohol content was too high. It does occur to me that perhaps the Swedish mozzies are fond of a tipple.
In order to combat the onslaught, insect repellent is sold by the litre in supermarkets and chemists. It all suddenly appears, packed on shelves as the weather changes from cold and bitter to hot and steamy. Because, as we all know, bugs love it hot and steamy.
There’s 47 species of mosquito here in Sweden and 45 of them will bite you. I have yet to meet the two that don’t.
Speaking of indiscriminate biting, there’s also a lot of ticks. While they seem to be put off by humans, they love attaching themselves to dogs. Our dogs in particular. Well, dog, really. I’ve only found one on Freya. On the other hand, I’ve lost count of the ones I’ve taken off Emma.
Who knew that ticks could have a preference.
I should add, for any Australian listeners, that the ticks here in Sweden do not kill dogs. Obviously, Australian ticks do. After all everything in Australia can kill you.
In fact, Fanny, a Swedish barista I regularly chat with, assures me that as much as she’d love to go to Australia, she fears she wouldn’t survive. I have told her as long as she avoids everything, she’d be fine.
Something else Sweden and Australia have in common is flies. There’s a lot of flies here. Leave food out and it’s almost instantly covered in them. And, unlike the mosquitoes, they are fast. Not like the clumsy great flies of England which seem to politely wait for the hand to come down upon them.
There’s also something black and white, big and bitey which my wife told me about. She thinks it might be some sort of mutant horsefly. Her description had me thinking of a tiny, flying, flesh eating orc. But that can’t be right.
But not every insect is out to get you here in Sweden.
There’s over 200 species of bee for a start. Happily bouncing from flower to flower collecting and distributing pollen. At least, they would be happy if their environment wasn’t constantly under threat. At the moment, more than a third of the bee species in Sweden are on the Red List.
However, there’s good news. Of a sort. McDonalds have taken the extraordinary step of converting the back of some of their billboards into bee hotels. A few of their outlets also have beehives on the roof.
Something not in danger is the dragonflies. Or troll flies as they call them here. There are around 60 different types. Take a walk by a river or canal and I reckon you’ll see all of them.
From the Hairy dragonfly to the Ruddy Darter, they’re all here. And, while the mosquitoes can be a bit of a nuisance to us humans, they are an excellent food source for the dragonflies.
Of course, all this insect life is mostly caused by the fact that we are surrounded by lakes and primeval forest. They breed and multiply to their hearts content until it’s time to find humans. They must take a strange sort of suicidal pleasure in making you itch right before being squashed.
And, just to show that I’m not exaggerating. There’s a road not far from us which we regularly walk along with the dogs. It’s called Myggvägen which translates to Mosquito Road. I’m glad we didn’t rent a place there, our road is bad enough.