Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Berwick bug was an ankle-biter

From the Frederick (Maryland) News (August 24, 1901), comes this little tidbit:
The "ankle bug" has taken the place of the "kissing bug" in some localities. In Berwick, Pa., a number of persons have been crippled as the result of its bite. As yet the insect has not been identified, and is known only as the "ankle bug." Persons wearing shoes, with open work stockings, are easy prey.
The "kissing bug" to which this alludes is an interesting case, and one into which little research has ever been done. First mentioned by Charles Fort in Wild Talents, this was a veritable plague of insect bites which swept from Washington, DC, and thence across the country, in 1899. Most have been content to call it mass hysteria and be done with it - while it undoubtedly was mass hysteria in which any sort of biting or stinging insect was labelled "kissing bug", I don't believe its true origins lie in hysteria. That said, the "ankle bug" seems to be much the same.

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