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They’re Ba-a-a-a-ck

June 21, 2020

The rains are here, fitfully. That means the mosquitoes are multiplying. Hi, kids! We didn’t miss you.

Mosquitoes, if you look at them in real life and not in one of those blown-up photos, are oddly elegant little critters. Close up, they look like terrifying monsters, but in the normal range of scale, they’re oddly delicate, well-designed bugs. I try to focus on that when I realise three of them have bitten me on the ankles in five minutes.

Sometimes, I’ve clapped my hands and caught one, only to see it fly off when I open them again. They don’t crush easy. They’re flexible, like arthropodic ninjas. And they seem smart. I swear our local ones have psychic powers that tell them when they’re about to be swatted. Three times last night I had one touch down on my wrist, and was sure I could splat it. Each time, it was gone by the time my other hand struck the wrist, so the whole exercise seemed like a weird exercise in masochism.

I use a mosquito net at night, but often there’s at least one enterprising bug that makes it in under the hem of that. I read they’re attracted to carbon dioxide emissions, and other things the chemistry of our bodies produces. They’re amazingly well evolved for what they have to do, but I still wish they didn’t do it.

Now, dogs it seems, don’t react to mosquitoes’ anaesthetic saliva the way we do. They don’t itch. They get bitten, but when they’re scratching, it’s because of something else, not the mossies. I envy them that.

My four-legged buddy Rem, for example, has a particular sardonic expression for me when he sees me trying to swat the things. He looks up and out from the corner of his eye, giving the impression he’s seen through human antics by now, and thinks we’re nuts. At least, when I’m not feeding him, that is.

Mind you, he has thick fur, so he’s mostly protected against skeeters anyway. I’m getting him some anti-tick meds, because they also emerge with the rains, but mosquitoes aren’t his problem. And when I’ve tried explaining to him the drawback of not having thick body fur, he just gives me that look again, and goes back to sleep.

Sardonic

Rem being unconcerned about mosquitoes. (He was too wary of the camera to look properly sardonic).

He does, though, lunge at bigger bugs, snapping his jaws. And every year when we get a kind of round, brown flying beetle that comes into the house at night, he makes himself ill by trying to eat a few. But I get no help with controlling the mosquitoes, not from him nor from the other dogs.

Citronella, despite its reputation, doesn’t seem to deter them much, and while I’ve heard they dislike cigarette smoke, that’s an aversion I share, so I’m not trying it. They come, they bite, and they ebb with the rains. That will put us in late October.

I’ll just have to keep swatting when I can, and being as tolerant as possible when I can’t. And Rem can keep on giving me that “Uh-huh, more useless effort” look.

Battling the Mexican Mob

At first, you try to pretend it’s not happening. It’s just an isolated incident, you tell yourself, and hope that’s true. Such a mob isn’t typical for our village, you say, so it’s bound to let up. You wait, hoping you’ll be proved right.

But as the days becomes weeks, and the problem doesn’t let up, you realise you have to face it. You’ve been lying awake at night, anxiously waiting for the problem to start again, and even when you do sleep, you wake repeatedly. The mob has penetrated every corner of the community, including your dreaming.

This morning, when Laura the cleaning lady came, I figured she might know what the consensus was in the village. Did anyone know how we could stop the ongoing attacks?

But she just shrugged.

“Señor, all you can do is fumigate. We did, and it helped.”

Okay, then. I just don’t recall this many mosquitoes outside of rainy season before. A bunch of them spend the night behind my toaster, and arise in a throng when I make breakfast. Punky the dog, who sleeps in the kitchen, occasionally goes frantic, trying to scratch the base of his tail (their favourite target) or his elbows. Both are places where his fur has not yet grown back in after a recent haircut.

There are several different kinds of them. There’s the annoying-whine kind, the more annoying- whine-kind (which sounds like a very small, complaining, overtired three-year-old) and another one that I call the Stealth Skeeter, because it doesn’t make any sound. Its bite only irritates for a relatively short time, but at 2.30 in the morning, if two of them have found their way under my mosquito net, their combined efforts can keep me awake for an hour.

I swatted one yesterday morning, which is usually difficult because mosquitoes have what I figure is the world’s best capture-avoidance system. They fly in random patterns, and seem to positively anticipate swatting. This one, though had been feasting on my blood, and was heavy and tired, so I was able to trap it between my palms.

The result was … eeewww. Especially so before I was properly awake.

Mosquitoes have an extraordinary mechanism for getting under our skin. They don’t, we’re told, want to be annoying, but I have my doubts on that. Somebody wanted mosquitoes to be unpleasant for mammals, for sadistic reasons beyond my comprehension, and they’re very good at their job. Before I resorted to the mosquito net, I was bitten a dozen times in one night, which has never happened before except once or twice during the rainy season.

mosquito-illustration.jpg

A picture, in case you didn’t know what one looks like close up.

Laura says the hot weather is causing them to breed, but we get hot weather in March and April every year. They supposedly need water for their larvae, but there’s hardly any around. I wonder if they’ve mutated and can manage without the old methods.

There is mosquito-borne dengue fever in this part of the world, but it’s not very prevalent above the lower areas. Malaria has not yet made it to this part of the country, though there’s evidence that it is occurring at increasingly higher altitudes as time passes, and certain species move into what were cooler zones.

“Give us time,” the beasties seem to be saying. “We’re taking over at our own speed.”

And before someone suggests it – no, citronella does nothing to deter a determined  mosquito. So, I’m going tomorrow to buy some nasty, toxic insecticide. Punky needs it, I’ve decided.

And heck, so do I.