How I cope with mosquitoes — blood-sucking bitches that love me

Mosquitoes love me. My body is a natural repellent for anyone else in my vicinity. These blood suckers will feast on me, while they never touch the spouse. Tedly is forever at war with them on my behalf – he slays every single one he encounters.

One recent day I returned from the gym and found he had left five dead mosquitoes on the sink for me to inspect. I like to know what I’m up against – I try to identify the species.

Ever since I fell ill with chikungunya (or dengue or zika or whatever virus that was) back in Tulum two years ago, Tedly’s hatred of mosquitoes intensified. I try not to kill any bugs – the exceptions are mosquitoes and ants. For some reason, ants love to bite me, too, and the bites swell up as large as mosquito bites or larger, depending on the type of ant that chomps me.

Ant bite from Tulum
My swollen foot and ankle from an ant bite at the beach in Tulum, Mexico, in the fall of 2015.

But this rant focuses on mosquitoes. If anyone knows how vicious mosquitoes are, it’s me. And it seems to me that they are becoming more common, and more of a problem – especially aedes aegypti. These nasty suckers spread all kinds of diseases: dengue, chikungunya, Zika, Mayaro, yellow fever.

Since I’ve been in Mazatlan, I have not seen the city spray for mosquitoes, but Tedly saw the truck once. Talk about chemicals – who knows what that stuff is. They used to spray often in Tulum, Mexico, when I lived there in 2015, at the height of the chikungunya problem and the dawn of the Zika nightmare.

Blood-sucking bitches

Tedly points out there has not been one single drop of rain our entire time in Mazatlan so far. I point out that these aedes aegypti suckers need just a drop of water – from a faucet, from a hose, from standing water, to the water sweating off of your cold drink, to land and lay its eggs. The surface can then dry – and the next time it gets wet – BAM! – they hatch. These suckers have white stripes on their legs, and a U-shaped mark on its middle section. My iPhone camera isn’t good with micro-shots, but here are two dead  from our Mazatlan rental. You can just make out those white stripes on the legs.

Dead mosquito not smashedDead mosquito

The females bite. This bitch can lay up to 500 eggs in her lifetime, and the eggs can survive up to six months on a dry surface. These bitches will follow you into your home through the door – even if you think you’re being quick, you’re not quick enough for them to zip in over your head. They are sneaky bitches and they stalk you on the sly. They will wait for you to turn the fan off, then swoop in low when you aren’t looking. (Most of my bites are on my legs.) Yet when I’m trying to kill one, it can fly high out of reach. They like to land on dark surfaces for camouflage.

Aedes aegypti love to live around people. Trash collects water and that’s where they can easily lay eggs. The bitches are city slickers.

Another nasty-ass biter is the aedes albopictus, or Asian tiger mosquito. It basically carries the same diseases. It also has white stripes/dots on its legs, but instead of a U-shaped mark on its thorax, it has one single white line. They are generally found outside in more rural areas.

I think I saw a few aedes albopictus in the Lake Atitlan region of Guatemala. Once they are smooshed dead, it’s hard to tell them apart. Scientists say all mosquitoes have spread to higher latitudes due to climate change – and also higher altitudes. Locals at Lake Atitlan (5,000 feet elevation) told me mosquitoes were not an issue in that area until about five or six years ago.

The Centers for Disease Control has a great clear picture on its website of aedes albopictus (rural dweller) and aedes agypti (city slicker – and much more common in my experience), plus a simple fact sheet about each. That page is here.

Mosquito coping methods

  1. Murder the mosquitoes
  2. Use repellent (they are not all created equal)
  3. Screens help
  4. Fans to keep them grounded
  5. Light, long clothing

We’ve touched on the murder, and I’ll return to that later.

I use Avon Skin So Soft Bug Guard – and that generally does work. The problem becomes my distaste for sticky skin, and the fact that I’m putting chemicals onto my skin. So I spray myself after waking, enjoy the morning quiet with coffee, head to the gym, and shower off when I return home. After a day out sweating or sunning or swimming, and using more repellent as needed, I shower off again before bed.

My family has always known how bad it can be for me. As a kid, I came inside from playing in wet grass at dusk, and my father was appalled at the number of mosquito bites on my legs. “Ellen! You have 50 bites – two dozen on each leg! How can you let that happen?” Here’s the other problem I have, aside from mosquitoes being attracted to me: I do not feel them bite me and suck my blood. Every once in a while, if it’s on a shin bone or elbow, I’ll feel a prick and smack it dead. You wouldn’t look at me and call me fat – yet I must have a layer of fat that makes it so I don’t feel them bite. Woe is me.

My mom told me she bought a few boxes of Avon Skin So Soft wipes to give me when I see my parents next month. For some reason, the stuff works better than Off for me, although Off works somewhat, too. Tedly likes to spray the doorways with Off, in an effort to keep them out of the home. The picture below shows the kind of repellent that seems to work best for me. The Avon stuff with the Picaridin is the absolute best, but it’s annoyingly sticky in humid weather.

Mosquito repellent

Our rental in Mazatlan does not have screens, but most of our rentals do. For this place, it’s right on the water, and the ocean breeze is usually strong enough by 10:00 a.m. to ground the bitches. Until then, there are two fans going at almost all times. We keep the bedroom doors closed, and use air conditioning at night.

While there’s no easy solution to these pests, when we hit Southeast Asia next year, I’ll be better covered with loose, light clothing. The plan is to get there right after rainy season. If I’m sweaty with sticky skin, so be it. Longer sleeves and pants isn’t what I normally reach for in hot, humid weather, but it’s not the end of the world.

My friend Tasso lived in the tropics for years. He told me I’d eventually build up a resistance to mosquitoes. To some extent, that proved to be true. Years ago, mosquito bites would itch so badly that I could hardly think of anything else besides not scratching myself raw. Today, the itch is mild to moderate and is usually gone in several hours. Also, the bites used to swell up to a good size and stay that way for days. Now, the swollen bite mark usually only lasts usually only 12 to 24 hours (a smaller, flat, dark pink mark sometimes is visible a little longer).

Tasso also used to tell me, ‘If you can’t handle a few bug bites, you may as well go back to a cubicle.’ And that cubicle, my friends, is no place I want to be.

Back to the murder, and one last picture to share. This dead blood-sucking bitch was on the sink when I came in just this morning from the gym. Tedly slayed it, and left it for my inspection. What’s unusual about this one is the blood from its dying belly was expelled and dried by the time I returned. I don’t think that’s my blood – I used repellent at dawn today and I don’t see any new bites on me. Gross, I know. And, again, I don’t like killing bugs. But after that horrible mosquito virus I contracted a couple years ago, I guess it’s better them than me.

Dead mosquito with blood

 

 

 

 

:-/

 

 

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