Thursday, December 29, 2005

Mosquitoes

If one was to compile a list of the most annoying animals ever, somewhere very near the top must come mosquitoes.
Benefits of mosquitoes: None.
Bad effects of mosquitoes: They spread malaria.
Things that mosquitoes do to irritate: buzz in your ear and bite your girlfriends.

For me the biting of mosquitoes is not the thing I detest them for. Mainly because they don’t seem to like my thin, tasteless blood. I don’t often get bitten. In fact, if I am sharing a bed, the other person is quite likely to wake up with dozens of tiny bites whilst I will usually emerge with none. The best mosquito deterrent for me is someone else.

What mosquitoes do that is most annoying is they buzz around your ears the moment you are getting settled. It’s like they WANT you kill them. Believe me if they just flew in silently, grabbed a nose-full of blood and silently skitted off to digest it, I would have only a minor problem with them. (As long as they didn’t give me malaria.) But they don’t. They sit and wait. And when the light is out, when you are just comfortable, when you are just starting to slide towards sleep, they swoop down and buzz right by your ear. By the time you hear them, they are gone so you will never swat them like this. You are only going to hit your own face. Nothing wakes you up more than a loud noise in your ear and slapping yourself on the forehead. If you try to sleep again, it will come back. Not to stealthily bite you, but to buzz your ear again. Why? Why would they do this? What is the evolutionary advantage?

After the third time – and quite often now after the first, because I know what’s going to happen – I go into Death to Mosquitoes mode. From then on, there is no rest until I have killed every mosquito in the room. Fortunately, mosquitoes are relatively slow-moving, stupid creatures with a peacock’s sense of camouflage. They are black and seem to like sitting on light-coloured walls where they are easy to spot. They also don’t have a fly's sense of impending newspaper strike, and so do not dart out of the way when a rolled-up newspaper comes towards them. Rather they tend to stay there and become a smear on the wall. Sometimes when you have waited until after you have been bit to take your revenge, the smear is red, and you realise that it is your own blood streaking your walls.

I have been bothered by mosquitoes more in Amsterdam than in most places, except perhaps on boating holidays in the UK. It’s a canal thing – they love water. I expected to be bothered in Singapore, but they have pretty much eradicated them there. In China, they are not very common in the big cities. Although on my first trip I was advised to take malaria tablets but started taking them a touch later than recommended, so they were not fully working when I arrived. Having left the plane, I found myself in a taxi with the fattest, most malaryised mosquito I’d ever seen; with an expression that said I was just the change of diet it was looking for. In the end it just sat out of reach and shifted a few inches when the driver tried lazily to swat it, and I was soon even more terrified by my first experience of the way Chinese taxis drive.

1 comment:

Brian "Arrr" Tarnoff said...

I once heard that only the male mosquitoes "buzz" and it's only the females that bite you. So you need to wait until the buzzing stops, 'cause then you can swat them in flagrante.

If that's your sort of thing.