A smidge irritated: July 17, 2013


I got bit THROUGH MY SWEATER by mosquitos as I stood by a lake in a forest in Berlin. (Photo by Bjorn Karlman)

In our 6 1/2 months of travel, Bjorn and I have been to three different continents, traveled thousands of miles, lived in climates muggy to chilly, yet they have been everywhere we go. Of course, some degrees of difference do exist. In Bangkok, I had more severe reactions to them. In Buenos Aires, I was impressed/horrified by their resilience. And in Berlin, they are downright aggressive.  But always, ALWAYS, they are there. No matter what I do, no matter how I try to escape their attention, they find me. They are out for blood — mine.

I am talking, of course, about mosquitoes.

Much to my disgust, I feel like I have gotten to be quite the mosquito-bite maven, a connoisseur of the skeeter suck, if you will. If someone were to blindfold me and fly me around the world, I bet I would still know where I was within a prick.

In Bangkok, the bites were fairly painless; most of the time I did not realize I had been bit. But the wheals (the bumps on the skin left after a mosquito’s bite; yes, it has its own name) are huge, and they also seem to last forever. They lasted so long I forgot what my legs looked like before the bumps.

In Buenos Aires, the wheals were smaller than the ones in Bangkok, about the circumference of a pencil top, and they didn’t last as long, maybe a week at most.  But they hurt much, much more. I was surprised by how much and by how long they stung.  I would frequently get bit in the early morning, and then be reminded of the sucker’s attack by throbbing pain in the late afternoon.

In Berlin, the bites sting a little less than Buenos Aires but can still definitely be felt.  However, the wheals are smaller (about the size of a pen tip) and if I don’t scratch them, the bumps are gone within a day.

I don’t know what mosquitoes are like in Mumbai yet, but I have no doubt I will find out within hours of arrival there.

Remember this photo from Bangkok? (Photo by Jammie Karlman)

How, HOW are they everywhere? I understand that in tropical, swampy Bangkok, mosquitoes are de rigueur — though I was wholly surprised by the quarter-sized wheals  their bites produced. The oversized bumps led to some oversized fears about dengue, which is one of the diseases these flying syringes can carry. (Thankfully, I did not contract it.)

When we went to Buenos Aires during its fall and winter, I thought, “Surely now we will be safe!” But no matter how shrilly the wind shrieked or how frosty the temperature (and believe me, in our apartment with non-existent central heat, it got plenty cold), the little bloodsuckers managed to rouse themselves to buzz in our ears. At 3 a.m. Each night.

I had thought they needed much heat and large amounts of still water, but apparently they do better in cold than I do and only need a bottle cap of liquid to breed (though, with our bathroom floor in a constantly flooded state, I guess I should have been grateful there weren’t more).

Even worse, my fears of dengue also followed. One of the first posters I saw in Buenos Aires warned about mosquitoes and the dangers of contracting the dreaded disease.

Now we are in Berlin and it is summer. It is fairly warm and there are lakes and canals aplenty. I was not surprised when the red wheals began appearing. Accordingly, I began wearing long sleeves and jeggings to fend them off as I prefer not to coat myself in toxic chemicals. In Bangkok and Buenos Aires, this method usually worked. But not here. These pesky pests bite through the sleeves and jeggings!

Of course, reported cases of dengue are up in Germany.

Part of me has a begrudging respect for their omnipresence and hardiness, but the larger, fleshy, blood-filled part of me just wants to smash them all flat. Apparently, I’m not the only one who longs for a wheal-free future. Some scientists suggest that complete eradication of mosquitoes would not have serious ecological consequences. That’s as good a call to arms as any.

Get ready, mosquitoes. It’s on.



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