Ok … so I’ve mentioned our wildlife recently and the fact that ‘cinghiale’ can be a bit terrifying when they are cornered (seriously, why would you corner a ‘cinghiale’?) or when the mums have a litter of babies following them (but they’re so small and stripy and cute I just want to pick one up and cuddle it!) At the same end of the ‘pericoloso’ spectrum, we have the occasional tale of ‘lupi’ (wolves) in the area – the newspapers have reported a pack of two or three causing a bit of mayhem in one of the nearby villages earlier this year – leaving a couple of sheep worse for wear.
We also need to be careful of the snakes in the long grass and especially asleep under stones. The ‘viperi’ are the worst as they have a nasty bite and are ‘velonoso’ despite being small. And we also get plenty of grass snakes (that’ll be because of all the grass we’ve got I suppose) which can be around a metre long but are generally harmless (good to know as I am currently sharing my potting shed with one!) We’ve been told never to pick one up by its tail as it can swing around and bite you … always pick them up by the back of the head. Cough cough! … Newsflash! … I will not be going around picking up snakes, ‘velonoso’ or not – I’m more likely to pick up a baby ‘cinghiale’ in full sight of its mother whilst standing in a corner (they really are cute)! The photo here is of a grass snake or ‘biscia’ that we found outside our driveway, sunning itself on the road. Unfortunately on closer inspection (and by that I mean with a very long stick) we realised he’d coiled himself up and probably been so relaxed that he didn’t notice the car going past that we think struck him and killed him.
But this post is to advise you of the smaller companions we are enjoying on a day to day basis this Summer …
‘Zecche’ (Ticks) – these look like tiny black beetles and live in the long grass, deposited there by our lovely ‘capriole’ friends as they brush past, no doubt on their way to munch on a few fresh ‘zucchini’ tops in our ‘orto’. They then lie in wait (the ticks not the ‘capriole’) for another warm-blooded host to wander past and then attach themselves to the skin. And when I say attach, I mean teeth and all – they’re like little vampires that bury their heads into your skin and feast on your blood until they’re full. They then stay there, creating a hard black speck on your skin that looks like a small scab and can go unnoticed for a long while. But this is the problem … they need to be removed … teeth and all … with no squeezing or they can infect your blood stream. I’m not going into the gory details here (sorry if any of you were eating whilst reading this!) but basically things can get a bit nasty if they are left untreated.
‘Calabrone’ (European hornets) – if wasps went to the gym, lifted weights and took steroids then they would look like calabrone. These flying monsters are nearly two inches long and about the thickness of my thumb (I do not have slim thumbs) and are not only potentially dangerous but almost indestructible. We had one in our awning a couple of years ago in the Summer – we heard this really loud buzzing sound, despite the doors and windows being shut, and saw what looked like a small bird whizzing around the tent. I bravely went out to release it to the wild (I thought showing kindness to it may stand me in good stead for the future) so unzipped the door and stood in the opposite corner as it found its way out. Back into the caravan, and it wasn’t long before we heard the buzzing again and sure enough he was back – same routine as before and he was out in the open air. The third time he arrived I decided that something that stupid shouldn’t be allowed another chance so I picked up a badminton racket (the fly-swat would have just disintegrated on impact) and swiftly finished him off. He didn’t come back! Here at the house we’ve seen two or three, buzzing around holes in trees looking for nesting spots I think, but we’ve not been bothered by them. In this case they are at least big enough to see and come with a loud buzzing noise attached so you can usually get out of their path if they’re heading your way.
‘Tafani’ (Deer Flies) – these large flies have green eyes and an evil bite. We were warned about these very early in the season by one of our passing tractor driving friends, that when working in the woods they can sniff out your hot sweaty body from a long way away and will arrive to feast on you whilst you are moist and juicy. What he didn’t say was that they do not limit themselves to the boundaries of the woodland. They are also regular visitors to our ‘orto’, especially when I have a lot of weeding to do or am just setting up to water on an evening. They circle you a few times, noisily, before coming in for a nibble (apparently it’s the females that bite as they need sustenance for their egg laying), and they always seem to come at you from behind so you don’t see them land, you just feel a sharp nip on the back of your leg or arm. The resulting bite can be irritating for a few days and can swell to the size of an apple if you’re unlucky – I’m one of the lucky ones and have been bitten a few times with nothing more than a small irritation and a few expletives! They can be a bit slow, so if you time it right you can get rid of them with a good thwack of your hand followed by the heel of your boot if you see where they landed!
So we’re learning to contend with some very different wildlife than we were used to in the suburbs in England … all part of the experience of living in a different country and additionally, for us, the heart of the countryside. However in a couple of months we’ll be back into Autumn – the tafani and the snakes will be less likely to surface, and I’ll be surrounded by stripy cinghiale babies, deciding which one I can cuddle first!