La Belle Dormant: Jules Returns Home & A Reason to Be Proud of France!
LE BONHEUR: Mom Shares The Meaning of Happiness

LA PIQURE: A Mystery That is Really Bugging Me

Shutters bougainvillea jasmine
C'est bientôt l'été. It's almost summertime! To stay cool we'll keep these volets closed and the ceiling fans spinning. Now to find a solution for summer pests, following a recent slew of piqûres... Read on, in today's word fest.

If I can do my expat taxes anyone can! I recently completed and filed my US Tax Return & FBAR electronically using simple, step-by-step software. Give it a try and be done with your 2023 tax return.  Click here to begin. 


    : sting, bite

Jean-Marc will be pouring his 2023 Ephèmera wine at Le Vin Sobre Mazargues at 5 pm.
Adresse: 2 Av. du Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny, 13009 Marseille
If you are in the area, don't miss this chance to taste his wine! 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

"Ça gratte!" It itches! I say to Jean-Marc, waking up with fresh bites on my arm. I can't believe it! They've struck again! But just who are they is the question. What, exactly, is biting me every night? My skin is swollen and I see red bumps, ici et par là, across my arms, stomach, and legs. It's an exercise in willpower not to scratch them, so I claw at the skin on either side and wake up my husband. La misère aime la compagnie!

"Are you sure you haven't been bitten?" I look over at Jean-Marc, who is groggy from sleep.
"Je n'ai pas de piqûres," he mumbles. Well, it can't be bed bugs then, can it? Besides, I would have noticed the intruders, having studied the situation since the famous breakout in Paris last year. Les punaises are visible.

Perplexed, I go down the culprit list, once again...

Could it be un moustique qui me pique? Mosquito season began a few weeks ago but it is unlikely a winged want-not has crawled beneath my covers to bite me on the bottom!

What about les puces? Could fleas be eating me? I look around my bed, scrutinizing the sheets, but les puces are nowhere to be seen. I'd recognize them having dealt with the little critters when we brought our dog home from the farm eight months ago. Our adoptee, Ricci, was covered in the bloodsucking parasites. During the 5-hour ride home from Aveyron I squashed as many as I could--proof that fleas are big enough to see. 

Et si c'était les araignées? Spiders are common around here, given we don't spray pesticides. Could these be spider bites I'm getting each night?

How about les mites? Mites don't bite Jean-Marc informs me. Maybe dust mites don't bite but other kinds of mites might! Bird mites? Could it be our family of tourterelles is sharing more than their good company?


What if it's un mechant taon? I saw one flying around my bed just this morning! Could a horrible horsefly be behind these itchy lumps and bumps?

Jean-Marc suggested it might be hives, which have, coincidentally, come up since my mom went into the hospital. According to Google, "Stress hives can resemble insect bites..." Is it all the nerve-racking driving to Marseille and beyond that’s gotten under my skin? Or the agonizing wait for Mom’s health insurance to kick in?

Until I know just what's biting me, physically or emotionally, I've sprinkled baking soda across my mattress (Mom says it will dry the suckers out!), changed my sheets, my pajamas, and sprayed lavender mist all over the bedroom after Jean-Marc vacuumed. This relieved things for a few days, but the itchy boutons returned!

As I sit here scratching beneath my chin (the most recent morsure), I think about another possibility: no-see-ums. The funny term refers to tiny winged creatures that bite. These gnats are called moucherons in French. But Jean-Marc says it can't be them because they can't fly under the covers. 

Could it be that all these bites, then, are happening during the day? Are "no-see-ums", finally, to blame? Even if this mystery is close to being solved, the solution to no-see-ums is nowhere in sight. And, frankly, apart from lavender and baking soda, I'm not going to put too much more energy into cette situation gênante. No, you won't see me running around swatting at some invisible enemy. Honestly, I've got other cats to whip at the moment. (Leave it to the French to save the day with an amusing idiom: avoir d'autres chats à fouetter) In the meantime I have a fine phrasal verb for the pests: BUG OFF! Va t’en!


Ricci in the leaves
Ricci, in her favorite hangout beneath the hedges.

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Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the French words below. Click here

la piqûre
= bite, sting
ça gratte
= it itches
ici et par là = here and there
la misère aime la compagnie = misery loves company
je n'ai pas de piqûres = I don't have any bites
la punaise de lit = bed bug
un moustique qui me pique = a mosquito biting me
les puces = fleas
Et si c'était les araignées? = And what if it's spiders?
les mites
= mites
la tourterelle = collared dove
un méchant taon = a mean horsefly
le bouton = bite
une morsure = a bite
les moucherons = no-see-ums (biting midges)
une situation gênante = annoying situation
avoir d'autres chats à fouetter
= to have bigger fish to fry
va t'en!
= bug off!

For more useful vocabulary and stories from France, check out Blossoming in Provence.

Mom at the lavoir 2007
An update on Mom: Jules is enjoying being home. She will see her internist on Tuesday for un compte-rendu or report of all the tests she took, and hopefully a specific treatment. (In this photo, from 2007, Mom stopped by the local lavoir in Sainte Cécile-les-Vignes to cheer the women taking care of their family's laundry. Read the story "piquer" from the archives.

Dad in France
Last but not least, Happy Father's Day to all who celebrate. Bonne Fête, Papa! To my loving dad whose kindness, wisdom, and care touch my heart time and again! I especially love Dad's childlike delight in the simplest things. Here he is, below, in La Ciotat, having tossed his favorite borrowed beach towel over the table. "I reserved it for us," he smiled. I love this memory.. Thank you, Dad, for being a terrific father.

Dad in La Ciotat

Dad in his favorite calanque
Above: Dad in his favorite cove near Mugel beach.

Kristi with Dad
I leave you with a favorite story about my Dad called "Joie de Vivre". Click here.

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Doris Bourbeau

So, if hives. Heat works sometimes, as in a heating pad and cold packs work sometimes. Scratching makes for a problem. When I had hives and nothing worked, I turned on my hand hairdryer and blew hot air on the hives to stop the itching and it worked. Hope you soon have relief.

Leslie Layton

My son was recently married near Edisto Island, SC and the no see ums were a problem. I thought I’d escaped but two days later the bites popped out all over my body! It took two weeks to go away and the itching was unbearable. Maybe you’re around them in the day and the bites pop out later like mine did? Hope you solve the mystery and the itch!

Julie Farrar

I didn't know no-see-ums were a problem in France. I remember in Scotland on a hike we stopped by water and in two seconds I was swarmed by midges. Since I'm allergic to all bug bites I had a swollen, red hand for the entire trip. Stress hives can be a a good candidate. It can appear anywhere and take any appearance. Ice is good for the itching. Can you buy oatmeal baths in France? In the US it is Aveeno everyone reaches for. To be on the safe side, check your yard for any standing water because standing water attracts all kinds of bitey bugs. So no bird baths or water bowls for Ricci outside until you get a handle on the hives. I wish I could express mail you my benedryl I always travel with. I know from experience that France doesn't sell over the counter all the super strong things for itching. But don't let it go too long. Get a subscription for something to make an immediate improvement in the itching. It is not good for your health to have so much histamine coursing through your body, no matter the cause. Take care.


I feel itchy, just reading this.... Bonne chance!


Our dear Kristi,
Once again(and as always!) you have brought smiles to our morning and also to our visages!
And!Only you could give us such good humor about bitey bites that plague our skin!
We( make that me!) had a similar problem,annoying to the point of frustration,feeling crawly things and pin prick bites on my body and appendages.
After one especially sleep wrecking episode of swatting and attempts to wipe the culprits off,I jumped up,turned on the light and ( to my dismay,and almost relief!)discovered nearly transparently invisible teensy ants crawling up and over
me,the mignons, the bedding and bed-- racing in for refuge through a hole behind the headboard.
I am abhorrent to killing any living being but out of self preservation for well being of self and family, I reached for a dog safe bug repellent and sent them packing.
End of story till the next (which is surely inevitable!)time!
All blessing and prayers for you,beautiful Jules,and dear family.
Arms tight around you all.
Natalia xo

Alisa S.

Dear Kristi: Another culprit to investigate are chiggers (known also as red-bugs). Google those. We battle them here in Southeast US. I spray myself with homemade insect repellent ANYtime before I go out to garden or be in the yard. And I mean I spray head to toe before dressing and then my clothes and shoes too! But if some penetrate even those defenses (and sometimes they do!) the bites do not show up for several hours, ie often overnight. They’re not true bites as you’ll find when you do research. There are many home remedies but the one that works best for me is straight lavender essential oil applied to the bites, followed by Caladryl Clear. The lumps still take about 2 weeks to retreat and oddly about a month later they’ll begin to itch in that spot for a day or so even after if the redness and swelling are gone! Another person mentioned Aveeno bath, that works to soothe the itch too. Last ditch effort, so you can sleep, is allergy med, the drowsy kind (either prescription or Benadryl) overnight. Sometimes that breaks the itch cycle. At the very least it lets you sleep through it (mostly). I’m so sorry for you because I know just how maddening it can be! As far as JM, yea, my son and grandson do not get “bit” by the chiggers (not fair!), but my daughter-in-law, granddaughter, and I get eaten alive if we don’t take precautions! Think it has to do with blood type or something suchlike. Hope you can find some relief soon! ~ Alisa

Earle Self

Kristi, I have been enduring night time itching and hives which resemble bug bites for a period of several months. Since I have alpha gal syndrome (red meat/mammal allergy) from tick bites, I started searching my memory, coming up with blanks. Finally, I remembered that I had added a probiotic, with a dozen bacillus strains in it, about the time the hives and itching started and stopped taking it. Relief from the hives was immediate...

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you all for the helpful info and ideas on how to deal with the bites and itching. And chiggers! Just the word sounds burrowing and teethy.

Merci encore for sharing your stories and experiences 🩷

Kristin Espinasse

Earle, Your comment about the probiotic is interesting. I hope anyone experiencing hives (and taking certain meds) thinks about this. I’m sorry you were bitten by ticks, and are suffering the consequences. I did find a tick in my bed last week—and it freaked me out. I’m sure none of the bites are from it,(and or just don’t want to know!).

Patricia Manze

In my head, I always try to attach a french word to something in English in hoping it will stick around my tete a little easier. Today reading "gratte" for itchie, makes me think of grating cheese which is basically what one does to their own skin when bites get the best of us!


"Could it be that all these bites, then, are happening during the day? Are "no-see-ums", finally, to blame?"

Sounds like it. I once stayed at a hotel in an area that had lots of mosquitos and no-see-ums, and every morning I woke up with itchy bites. The little welts come out after you go to sleep, even though the bites (which are actually stings) occur during the day.

Julie Gorka

Bonjour Kristi,

I'm wondering if you might be getting bites from chiggers. They get into your clothing while you are outdoors (in the garden, or even just sitting on a patio) and their bites don't itch right away so people can't often pinpoint where they come from. They WILL stay itchy for a good long time though! I don't know what their range is but I got something that looked like chigger bites while I was in southern France recently.

Pretty much the only thing you can do for chigger bites is put on some Benadryl creme. An old wives tale has you putting nail polish on the bites (under the mistaken idea that the chiggers are somehow living inside your skin) but that will do exactly no good and might make the bites get infected.

If chiggers are a problem for you, the best thing is to use bug spray (ask me how I know so much about insect bites! My garden is all natural and I live in buggy North Carolina), especially around your ankles and shoes since that's often how they gain access to you. They can also drop from bushes or nearby plants, so I always wear a hat.

It's funny how many of the replies to this post is about insects! Beyond that, I always enjoy your posts.

barbara michels

I feel your pain. I live on the Florida Gulf Coast and all of our patios have screen cages around them. But the infernal no see-ums and midge bugs can still get in. In the US, they have a new "repellant" called ZEEVO. It's not a chemical but a "blue light" that plugs into an outlet and when the house is dark, the little fliers are attracted to the light and stick to the surface just inside. Perhaps France has something similar. Bonne chance.

Suzanne Dunaway

Maybe zone, shingles, Kristie. We just had our Shingrix shots and you might check if you have hives. With all that's going on in your life with your maman, and more, it would not be surprising, I happen to have perioaural dematitis on chin and around mouth...stress, flouride toothpaste (!), citrus, (putting our kitty, Loulou, to sleep....) you name it, but there are creams for it, Ialuset is one that might help you not itch. But mostly, we are so sorry for your troubles.❤️

Henry Lambert

Salut Kristi, I had the same thing last year. I thought it could be insects but the dermatologist diagnosed it as photo dermatitis.

Karen in Northport, NY

Contact allergy? Sooo many possibilities. I'll get a reaction (hives) from detergent if laundry isn't rinsed well. can I put this...well, rat pee. In psychology school we studied learning by teaching lab rats all sorts of things. Of course he became a pet when class was over. Sneezy, hivey reaction. I'm a human rat detector. Career options. And they like bird seed, got a feeder in your garden for the doves? Mystery itches sound miserable. Hope you find the culprit soon.

Lynn McBride

How wonderful that you are getting advice from the whole crowd! I hope you figure it out. I'm reporting from Burgundy: we had the same problem when we lived in the country. We would be fine when we went to bed and then wake up with red bites, mostly on the torso. Our French friends told us it was the aoutats. It usually only happens in really hot weather, hence the name. But it can happen much earlier than August. They are similar to chiggers. You get them in the garden, but you can also get them from your dog, they like to hang out dog's fur, maybe on cats too. Which could explain why you have them even on your face and neck. We've never had a problem with them since we moved to town. I hope this helps, it could be a lot of different things. I'm glad your mom is home!

Kristin Espinasse

Hello Lynn, Thanks for mentioning aoûtats. This is now ringing a bell. Yes, it could be Ricci is bringing them inside.
I am glad to know you no longer struggle with these pests …who do seem to attack the torso!

K. J. Laramie

Oh, I do relate! After a visit to a beach hotel, I came home with over 100 bug bites which turned out to be no-seeums. We plugged in special Blue Lights to attract them; also used those same lightbulbs in the outside porch light fixtures.
You have my sympathy, Kristi! They love your blood which must be very sweet. Special creams helped somewhat.
Interesting to note,
MY HUSBAND WAS TOTALLY UNSCATHED IN THE SAME ENVIRONMENT but he saved the day by putting the blue lightbulbs everywhere and when I ended up in the hospital with my blood pressure through the roof, he fumigated the house by setting off the bug bomb that was eventually successful.
I hope this helps. 🙏


Haven't heard anything about Mama Jules kitty lately. Is s/he still residing with the family? I know Jules has had several hospital stays recently.

Dawn Davis

So sorry to hear of your insufferable bites or hives but it was amusing to read of your ongoing investigation!
As a gardeber I have had a number of unfortunate reactions, the worst of which also included a nasty spider(?)bite in the middle of poison oak rash. Ugh! I also tried everything but finally found relief with the lovely smellingTea Tree Oil! My husband's uncle sued it when he has was the only thing that stopped the itch.
I don't mind the smell but it's pretty powerful at first...but it works!
Praying you don't have to use it and that your mom is well!9
Blessings & Cheers
Dawn Davis
A Canadian friend


Hi, Kristi! I feel for you! When I was in a state park in NY a couple of months ago, I thought I must have developed an allergy to blueberries. After I had hiked the falls trails & got back to camp later in the day I would start itching. It was hours after the hike so I didn't connect it to my troubles. Turns out, it was from chiggers in the grasses along my hikes. My legs are still scarred from all the scratching I did on them even though I tried not to. The itching was unbearable. I couldn't find anything to relieve the itch at the time, but a friend later told me about a product called Chiggerex that she claims really takes the itch out. I don't know if you have the little monsters in France, but they are all over the mid-west, east & south of the US. Hopefully by now you've discovered the culprit & have been able to get it under control.

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