It is often said that humans do not have natural predators, except for humans. Well, there is the occasonal snake bite or bear maul, but those don’t do anything to keep our species’ numbers down. But are we really at the top of the food chain? Obviously not. Our natural predators do not have claws or fangs or tallons. They consist of only a few strands of protein, or even just a few strands of RNA, and are invisible to the naked eye. They are the bacteria and viruses that cause diseases like malaria, dengue fever, ZIKA and a host of other afflictions killing many thousands of humans every year.
Primitive and tiny as these critters are, they do possess an air force much larger than that of any nation on earth. We call their aircraft mosquitos. The pay load capacity of these vehicles is enormous compared to even the biggest human transport plane, accomodating thousands upon thousands of troops, to be deployed in or near somebody’s blood stream and start their conquest.
The prototype of the mosquito was constructed about 100 million years ago. It took about 20 million years to develop the current model, which is so efficient that it has undergone only minor modifications since then. Nevertheless, the campaigns of the invisible critters must have been quite tough for the longest time, because the targets were all protected by fur, feathers or scales. When, finally humans came along with their huge expanse of naked skin, the joy of the critters must have been boundless. Had they had throats, their cheers would have been heard around the earth.
Another sophisticated feature of the mosquito is that it does not run on fossil fuel, but on hemoglobin, so that there are no exhaust fumes to contribute to global warming. It’s stealth technology, moreover, is unsurpassed! Its most advanced feature, however, is the capacity to replicate itself. No matter how many craft are destroyed by a lucky slap or a hostile eradication offensive, there will always be plenty more.
There is one requirement to make this possible: water. Stagnant water, to be exact. Now, here in the Northern Sonora, water, especially stagnant water, has traditonally been quite rare and mosquitos likewise.
But this year, the monsoon has brought an extraordinary amount of rain. There even was water in the Tanque Verde wash! Could be a fluke, or it could be a byproduct of the global warming caused, in part, by our own fossil-fuel guzzling aircraft. However that may be, the number of mosquitos available to the invisibles has risen correspondingly, as most, if not all of you will have noticed.
One way to defend against the offensive is to apply insecticides. Question is where to apply them, however, because the production facilities can be located just about anywhere. Another drawback is that it also kills the spiders that are in fact one of the most efficient weapons to supress mosquito production. And many a civilian byflyer will experience total engine failure as well.
The most realistic strategy, then, is to make sure there is no stagnant water around the house. Pet bowls, planters, buckets, wheel barrows, empty soda cans, and so on, are all giant mosquito factories even if there is just the tiniest bit of water in them.
Mosquito attacks often occur at night, robbing you of your sleep. Putting a fan by your bed helps to keep them out of your territory, because, for all their sophistication, mosquitos do not work well in moving air.
But you might get attacked in spite of all that; in that case, you can reduce the damage by applying vinegar to the point of impact. Vinegar breaks down the proteins in the blood-thinner mosquitos inject before discharging their pay load. Vinegar also breaks down the toxins from bites from other members of the Midge family and bee stings. The irritation is also mitigated by make a cross in the welt with your finger nail. If you can reach it, that is.
Otherwise, we’ll just have to deal with it until the dry heat returns. It is the Season of the Itch!
(Broadcast 4:43. Introductory music – intro to ‘The Season of the Witch’ by Donovan)
The Weekly Green is a KXCI mini-program on environmental topics from Southern Arizona and the rest of the universe.
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