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The Mighty Mosquito

It may seem strange that someone would bother to write an article devoted to mosquitoes. As much as I despise these little devils, I must also grudgingly admit to being somewhat fascinated and impressed by how much impact such tiny creatures have on the world around them, despite their incredibly short lives.

Female mosquitoes live up to one hundred days—about as long as our summer. Males are lucky to make it to day thirty. Yet in that brief span of time, they manage to garner a great deal of attention. They have spawned entire corporations full of scientists who labor industriously to find new and less-odiferous methods of repelling or destroying them.

All across America, local municipalities allocate monies each year for the “mosquito truck” and residents wait anxiously for its arrival, hoping that it comes before anyone contracts West Nile Virus or the like. As soon as the peculiar hum of the long-awaited truck is heard from a block or two away, mothers rush inside, slamming windows only to rush back outside and drag their unhappy charges indoors. No matter how many times we are told that the bug truck can not hurt our kids, who really believes that? If it can kill the vile, nearly indestructible mosquito, surely it can do irreparable damage to Junior.

Mosquito bites are certainly not new to the human condition. When I googled the little monsters, I learned they have been around for 100 million years. If you have ever seen a mosquito under a microscope, they do look downright prehistoric. In my own youth, I survived countless attacks by mosquitoes. I remember my mother plastering my scrawny eight-year-old legs with sticky pink lotion that did nothing to stop the itch but it did look cool. That night, I’d lie in bed, blissfully ignorant of the danger, while I scratched relentlessly at those pesky red bumps until I drew blood or fell asleep.

I have one truly dedicated neighbor who has made this battle with the mosquito a personal vendetta. Each year, he sets up his $400 mosquito trap in the back yard. Every week, he must empty out the trap and dispose of hundreds of tiny corpses. We don’t ask where he puts them, but somewhere out in the woods behind our street there is a massive, unmarked mosquito gravesite. He constructs an elaborate screened enclosure each year where his children can play freely without the worry of the nasty pests. When they do venture out, he bathes his young progeny in foul-smelling bug repellent. I have actually heard him asking other parents, “Do you DEET?” Those who answer no are met with a disdainful, upraised eyebrow.

Last year a new anti-mosquito solution caught my attention. For a mere $9.95 and to the delight of my six-year-old daughter, I purchased four bug repellent plastic bracelets. The package promised that with one on each wrist and one on each ankle, she would be protected all summer. They smelled suspiciously like citronella, which I have never found very effective, but then again, I never wore it. With great expectations, I accessorized my child and sent her out into the neighborhood at the most dangerous of hours—6 p.m. That night at bedtime I counted two mosquito bites—not bad for an entire summer evening—but both bites were on her ankles. Hmmmm …

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