My husband and I have a large vegetable garden, almost half of which is taken up by raspberries. The raspberries were there when we bought our house five years ago; since they were thriving, we planted the rest of the garden around them. Every year the raspberries encroach a little bit more into my tomato patch – but they’re so low-maintenance, I wouldn’t think of attempting to limit their growth.

We have two raspberry harvests each year, one in mid-July, and the other in September. Every year I am surprised by the quantity of fruit we pick. In peak season, it’s not unusual to gather a quart a day. If only the rest of my garden were so prolific . . .

Earlier this summer, when the heavy rains seemed to be either washing away or rotting all of my fledgling vegetable plants, I was concerned that this year’s raspberry harvest would be, well . . . a wash out. But the first wave of fruits was as abundant as ever. Now that we’re in the middle of the second harvest, I am astounded by the quantities we’re picking. It seems that there are more raspberries than ever, and they’re the biggest ones we’ve ever seen on our property. The uncharacteristically wet weather we experienced this summer has only helped our raspberries flourish.

Unfortunately, this summer’s damp conditions have also encouraged another species to flourish – the mosquito.

Everywhere I go, folks are talking about the swarms of mosquitos now inhabiting their yards. Several people I’ve spoken to had assumed that somehow they alone were having a bad mosquito year. “Maybe it’s because I’m pregnant,” one person said to me, “but I can’t step outside my door without being attacked.” Take it from me – you’re not alone. It’s happening everywhere, to everyone.

Mosquitos, along with numerous other bugs, are thriving this season. In order to breed, mosquitos must have access to standing water. The number of lakes and ponds in the region hasn’t changed, but because of all the rain this summer, these winged menaces have had numerous other sources of standing water to choose from – bird baths, planters, any open container left outdoors, plus lots and lots of puddles. And so they bred like crazy. And now we’re experiencing the results.

Picking raspberries used to be a meditative break in my day. Arriving home around 5 o’clock, I would grab my harvesting basket and an empty quart container and head out to the garden. If it wasn’t too hot or humid, I could spend a half hour picking raspberries, harvesting vegetables, and maybe even doing a little light weeding if the spirit moved me. It was a quiet transition between work and making dinner. Weather permitting, this was my routine for the first two thirds of the summer.

However, sometime toward the end of August, when the second wave of raspberries began coming in, I found that whenever I went out to the garden, mosquitos would swarm all around me, hungry for blood. At first I tried applying bug spray, though I’d never needed it before. That didn’t work, so I tried picking raspberries at different times of day, hoping that they’d be less prevalent when the sun was higher in the sky. No such luck. When I complained to my husband about the clouds of rabid bugs plaguing our back yard, he thought I was exaggerating — until he too went out to the garden and came in covered in welts.

Ever inventive, my husband suggested I stitch up a mosquito net that could be worn over the head with a hat, and tucked in around the shoulders of a jacket. Adding long pants, shoes, and socks to the costume would render the user impervious to bugs – at least for short intervals. So I picked up some fine white netting at the fabric store and fashioned myself a head covering. I may look like a misguided bride, but it seems to work — as long as it’s not so hot that I can’t stand to wear the extra layers.

Our raspberry harvest is still going strong. As the weather cools, I don’t mind wearing my bug-proofing as much, even though I look ridiculous. I’m guessing the neighbors already think my husband and I are nuts, so what have I got to lose? At least I’m not scratching at bug bites.

by Kezia Bacon-Bernstein, Correspondent
September 2003

Kezia Bacon-Bernstein’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168.