Friday, June 4, 2010
THE STING OF SUMMER
Mosquitos are a plague on us all.
Mosquitos are all bad. Even bats, which have recently been linked to ebola and other devastating killers, even bats serve a beneficial purpose by pollinating. And best of all, they eat mosquitos. But mosquitos stand almost alone as being an animal that causes nothing but harm.
Mosquito-borne illnesses are a King Cong killer on many continents, laying waste to humans and animals alike. Malaria transmitted from mosquitos is still one of the worlds biggest killers. And in the US, the little devils are responsible for transmitting encephalitis to humans and heart worm to our dogs and cats. About the only good news is they can’t transmit AIDS.
Mosquitos are like airborne jellyfish.
Mosquitos are everywhere that isn’t frozen.
Mosquitos need water to breed and we conveniently provide the maternity wards. Every yard has some wet place where a mosquito can lay her eggs. So, we have mosquitos out the yin-yang except, ironically, out on the water. They don’t like to go off shore. And that’s why boating is still the best mosquito repellant I know.
Mosquitos are all about light and they love to eat in the dark. They will hover annoyingly in the air around you as the sun sets, like they are waiting for the dinner bell. You count the minutes until you must flee, casting quick glances at your legs and arms. Do I put bug spray on? Or do I just give up and go inside?
I lived for many years in the Southwest where because of the lack of water, the bugs just get one dance. There is no next generation until the summer rains came again the following year. I camped out several days a week for fifteen years in Southern Utah without a tent and rarely were bugs of any kind an issue. So, this mosquito thing is troublesome to me.
And bug spray is equally sketchy. I put some heavy-duty spray on when I was working in a wildlife refuge many years ago and within two weeks the plastic band on my watch melted. That can’t be good. I have tried to steer clear of that stuff ever since because it goes directly into your blood.
Mosquitos don’t infect you through the transfer of tainted blood. They do it with their spit. They use their spit as the lubricant for drilling into skin. It cools the drill. And that’s what transmits diseases like malaria and West Nile virus.
I have always had lots of fish crows living near my house. A few years back they got nailed by West Nile.
For years, I awoke each morning to find six big crows sitting casually on my fence at the top of our cliff overlooking the Severn. They would chat animatedly, like old men out in front of the general store. Every day. And they really talked. I have no idea what they said but I often heard them laugh.
And then, in a matter of a few short weeks, they were gone.
It’s taken three years and now they are finally making a come back. But they are all young crows. The old boys have passed.
Mosquitos killed my fish crow friends.
Basically, it’s mosquitos against anything else that runs on blood.
That’s creepy. They’re like ravenous little vampires awaiting the night so they can strike. But there’s no eternal life with mosquitos. There’s just a bite or a battle. And many succumb.
So what’s a motha to do?
Well, don’t go outside after eating bananas. People who eat bananas are more likely to get attacked. So are kids. They prefer blondes to brunettes. And just like vampires, they go into a feeding frenzy when there’s a full moon.
Mosquitos hunt by sight, but they don’t see very well. They can’t distinguish a person from a tree except through movement or until they get close and then cue in on the infra-red warmth from our bodies and chemical signals, like maybe carbon dioxide and lactic acid. Scientists still aren’t sure. Citronella won’t prevent you from being bitten, but it will keep a mosquito from coming back because it irritates their feet. And you can usually out run them because they can only fly about one mile per hour.
But don’t despair. There is still hope. Many people make a good living feeding off of the mosquito. A comprehensive list would include the folks who make or sell: mosquito traps; power traps and power-vac systems; bug zappers and no zappers; glue boards and strips; electronic swatters; mosquito guards; mosquito larval killers; and my favorite, the Mosquito Deleto.
Mosquitos will no doubt outlive us all. They have buzzed the earth for over 100 million years.
Posted by Steve Carr at 7:05 AM