Mosquito Wars

©Dan White. No repro of words or pictures without authorisation.

 

If it ever feels like there is a fly in the ointment in Thailand it usually turns out that it isn’t actually a fly at all. As that hovering, dismembered, intense whine flits into your ear at sunset causing you to leap and squirm, you may realize that your evening just got gate crashed. This means one thing only. The mosquito.

Between man and insect there is little love lost.  From childhood we learn that if not battled on every front, with every means at our disposal these tiny, buzzing predators have the power to invade our space for hours on end inspiring regular feats of twitching, insomnia, self slapping and downright bad language on our part.

Worldwide the mosquito is one of man’s most fearsome foes carrying all kinds of nasty diseases that you really don’t want to get. The good news is that Thailand, as battle grounds go, has certainly been the scene of a resounding victory on the part of humankind and indeed the Ministry of Public Health. Over the last three decades malaria has been all but eliminated in most inhabited areas.  In most of Thailand the mozzie has been medically disarmed. In fact if you were really looking to get that ill you would have to head all the way to the jungles bordering Cambodia, Laos or Burma where malaria still thrives.That, however, doesn’t mean that the mosquito has lost its power to be really annoying or, on a bad day, able to entirely ruin your evening.

No one is certain when the mosquito first reared its spiteful little head but it’s pretty safe to bet that the whining little varmint predates man by about 100,000 years. That’s quite a head start by any one’s reckoning. When scientists examined the fossilized remains of a hundred-million-year-old mosquito preserved in a chunk of amber, they found appendages on it tough enough to pierce dinosaur hide. No wonder then that, these days, soft, white, touristic flesh represents an enticingly easy meal.

The first rule of any battle is to pick your ground. When battling the mosquito, this is pivotal. Where there is still or stagnant water, let alone plants, the mosquito is always close to home base and ready to refuel. That means that when you sit down to eat in a restaurant apparently calmed by the relaxed burbling of elaborate water features and framed by a magnificent leafy canopy of foliage, both you and your hosts need to know what you are getting into.  The mosquito regards this environment with even more pleasure than you do and they will be lining up in force in vast watery encampments to get airborne and start feasting greedily on your naïve, exposed flesh.

This is a sad state of affairs since human beings are actually an acquired taste for the mosquito. Of over 2,500 species, only the females of a few varieties are interested in feeding on people. And even that is only a recent evolutionary development. Their favorite meal of choice is either deer or cattle, but they are not always guaranteed to be on the mozzie menu. The compromise reality is that mozzie-needs mozzie-must and they have learned to point their virulent little snouts at the acres of human flesh that are more conveniently available than a frisian or a moose.

Mosquitoes do, however, like some human flesh more than other human flesh. Often in a group one person will be bitten a lot more than all the others. According to recent studies about 20 percent of people attract 80 percent of bites. So if you think they are picking on you, then you are probably right. No one is quite sure why mosquitoes are so unfair in distributing misery equally but the consensus is that it is down to scent. Old Asia hands have long noticed that people who drink heavily tend to attract more mosquitoes than the better behaved. The same is true of those hygienically challenged. So if simple self respect is not enough, this is surely an added incentive not to become a filthy alcoholic in hot countries.

Although the whine of the mosquito is enough to strike anxiety into most of us, especially if one of the tiny psychos has managed to break and enter whilst you are sleeping, it is important to bear in mind their essentially puny nature. It will help you relax. They can be blown into oblivion by a single puff of wind but are far more likely to be eaten, drowned, swatted, or crushed by spiders, fish, carnivorous plants or, indeed you, before they ever reach the end of their pathetic and miserable life span. Overall, just three or four mosquitoes out of a hundred live long enough to bite two victims consecutively. It’s not a great record despite their supposed collective strength.

Scientists calculate for the mosquito to win and put you out of your misery it would have to bite you 424,242 times in order to make you pass out with blood loss. That’s a pretty tall order for such a small creature even if they come at you in enough numbers. And if they did materialize in those numbers then you would know that you were in an Alfred Hitchcock film and it would all be over. Pass the popcorn.

You, on the other hand, have many means at your disposal to swat, electrocute, crush, gas or trick the enemy. They can only resort to mass and speedy reproduction.

So on a bad evening when you feel that the mosquito onslaught is relentless, the battle is lost and you are contemplating a retreat into despair, bear in mind that the mosquito is fighting a rear guard action in terms of long term damage. Go and wield the racquet.

5 ways to fight back.

  1. Spray them with noxious, insect killing aerosol spray. It can do the trick but you will usually find that you are spraying yourself just as hard which can induce dizziness. Have a sit down.
  2. Try the traditional method of swatting them with a rolled up magazine (Try this one). It’s great exercise if you don’t want to play squash, but you do play into the mosquitoes hands by, a. Not killing any and b. handing them the psychological advantage  which can only be humiliating considering their laughable IQ
  3. Zap them with an electronic tennis racket. Hear the crackle of victory and smile fiendishly to yourself in the knowledge that each flash of sparks marks another enemy vanquished. These impressive implements of sure victory are easily purchased from your local merchants of death…. Tesco Lotus, Carrefour or the Big C.
  4. Beat yourself up with your own bare hands belting each area of your exposed flesh with such terrific force and speed that no creature hiding in the crevices of your skin can survive the onslaught. Then take yourself to hospital to be treated for concussion.
  5. The electronic mosquito trap zaps them without the effort of the awesome tennis racquet. It’s great for pacifists who want to kill whilst also living in denial.

5 ways to do the right thing. Don’t get bit.

  1. Keep all flesh covered especially at dawn and dusk. You don’t have to go for the full burqua, but it helps to wear long sleeved shirts and long trousers. Wear socks even if you are wearing open shoes. Light clothes are less attractive than dark colors. The mosquito is a gloomy little beast.
  2. Don’t wear perfumes or aftershaves. You might end up attracting a different kind of creature than the one you were actually after by attempting to be fragrant.
  3. Use repellant preferably with DEET. It’s called repellant because it really is truly foul and disgusting. It’s oily and it’s smelly. It is, in fact, utterly repelling. If it repels you more than the mosquitoes do, then skip the repellant and just head out to take your chances with racquet in hand.
  4. Mosquitoes are water babies. Anywhere there is still water there is also a potentially festering colony of pumped up mozzies waiting to get airborne and launch relentless raids on your ankles. Avoid the water or tip it out. They also love plants. Plants+water=an itchy night out.
  5. Mosquito coils can work as long as you stay downwind of the smoke. You will end up smelling like a barbecue but apparently it makes them suffer
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