I'm a self-confessed bug hugger and a trustee of a national charity dedicated to conserving invertebrates but this little critter is not one of my favourites. Even though it has a real ale named after it.
Last week I visited my allotment. Something prompted me to gently scratch the back of my hand and immediately a tiny pool of purple blood formed on the skin. Puzzling. Surely, I hadn't scratched hard enough to pierce a vein?
In the night, I woke up scratching a hot and swollen hand, the site of the "injury" no longer visible. By the following afternoon, my left wrist looked as if it had sprouted a giant puffball and my partner urged a visit to the doctor. My GP was puzzled too. It's always slightly alarming when a doctor looks worried.
Later, I pondered the possible cause, sitting with my hand propped up on a pile of cushions, knocking back penicillin and anti-histamine and feeling rather drowsy. The skin was starting to blister. Then I remembered reading something on Facebook: earlier that week conservation volunteers had been bitten by the Blandford or Black fly while working just a few miles away at the Sutton Ecology Centre.
Diving onto Google confirmed that all my symptoms matched. The Blandford Fly, named after an epidemic of bites in Dorset in the 1970s, is a tiny insect, just two or three millimetres long and lays its eggs in running water. One of its relatives spreads river blindness in Africa, but thankfully - at least - our resident species, Simulium posticatum, is not known to carry disease.