After our recent soaking by Irene and Lee, mosquitoes have had a resurgence in Tidewater. The dogs are suffering, the cats find hiding places, the birds must be driven mad. I’ve seen a blood-fat mosquito on a frog and many mosquitoes swarming a passing box turtle. (I prayed he soon shut his ‘box’ against them.)
Male mosquitoes really do some good things in the garden. Scientists say they consume the sticky aphid residue on our plants and they do their fair share of pollinating while consuming nectar from flowers. And they DON’T bite us. The females are the problem. Females consume blood for protein in order to reproduce but there are one or two female species of the 2,700 worldwide species that don’t consume our blood. One feeds on nectar and another eats other mosquitoes. I’d like to import those to America. In Tidewater, we have 35 different mosquitoes species but the most prolific is the Asian tiger mosquitoes that dine only during daylight hours. Near our salt marshes we have two species that can bite during the daytime. A particularly aggressive daytime or nighttime mosquito in our area is the dark rice field mosquito.
According to Larry Weber, a Minnesota Science teacher at The Marshall School in Duluth, “A single meal can nourish 100 eggs or more. During a typical adult lifetime of two weeks to one month (adults of some species live six months or more), a mosquito bites one to three times.” Did he say the same mosquito could bite me three times? These bloodthirsty insects make me worry about West Nile, encephalitis and even malaria has been reported in Virginia.
For the most part I simply stay inside when mosquitoes swarm but I must fill bird feeders, weed a bit, mow, cut flowers, visit a neighbor, or walk the dogs. When I must venture out, the scene is reminiscent of The Birds. I open the front door and observe numerous mosquitoes waiting on the glass storm door biding their time like the bizarre seagulls on the telephone wires in the movie. Like Tippi Hendron, I cower. I know I’ll be ravaged by these mosquitoes no matter what I do. I hate to lather myself with sticky, smelly repellents, homemade or bought, so I plan my strategy. I have everything in hand for the job… bucket, clippers, leash, bird food, etc. I exit the house at a fast pace and get the job done in 20 minute spurts or less.
But the very best solution I have is to invest in BUZZ OFF insect repellent apparel… shirt, bandana, pants, socks, hat. Mosquitoes will not bite through it. I look like I’m ready for the savanna but it really works! They buzz but they don’t bite. I don’t fog our area because of good insects and a multitude of birds, like my nesting hummingbirds. What works for you?
Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester