Skeeter Sizzle

Some people play video games. I swat mosquitoes. So much so, I’ve considered giving the activity its own category on my new time-tracking spreadsheet. Like a video game, it’s a major time suck. Just as the hypnotic shapes in Candy Crush rain eternal, those hateful bloodsuckers never cease their advance.

Except, of course, in the midst of their most flagrant act of spite toward the human race. Namely, when copulating in flight at eye level. If this were a video game, killing these pairs would score exponential points. But the activity is far from fun, and rather than choice, I’m participating by begrudged necessity.

Both the most maddening and mundane annoyance of tropical living, mosquitoes assert their presence early, ravishing newbies upon arrival. My body, not being accustomed to their venom, developed massive red welts that itched like heroin withdrawal for days. And also branded me as fresh meat to the predatorily flirtatious local guys.

No dwelling is immune from the swarms. I’ve lived in many housing varieties during my four years in the VI, and all of them—from bachelor pad construction zone to crumbling caretaker’s cottage to swanky corporate rental—had their bouts of mosquito infestation.The posh place, ever sealed and air-conditioned, was somehow frequently overrun. If unoccupied for a time, the toilets were even drained to keep breeding levels down.

If toilets are treated similarly in the states, I never knew. Down here, it’s a savvy survival trick. Upon return from a recent short trip, I made the sickening discovery of several near grown mosquito larvae writhing eagerly in the toilet bowl. (Which, by the way, had been closed.) Oh, what a satisfying flush that was!

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Two in one. Gotta get ’em mid-feed.

Which brings us to my current happy circumstance, apartment sitting in a lovely space. My only complaint being a major mosquito presence. In my old digs, if they got bad enough, I bombed. It’s far from ideal, as you’re dispersing nasty chemicals throughout your house, but it sure as hell works. I’m hesitant to bomb here because it’s not my home, and the people who live here are even crunchier than me. Luckily, since I am (by choice) doing very little paid work these days, I have more time to find less damaging remedies.

Like any game-winning strategy, my approach includes both offensive and defensive elements. Quite necessary, as no tactic has proven very effective in and of itself.

OFFENSE

#1. No Standing Water.

Goodbye fresh flowers.

#2. Seal Spaces.

Plug gaps around slider in bedroom with ace combo of duct tape and bubble wrap.

Pretend holes in kitchen screens don’t exist. (Not in a position to make requests of the landlord. Not going to fix them myself.)

#3. Homemade Traps.

Not having had such ample time on my hands since preadolescence, I thought this science project-y possible solution worth a try. Items required: two-liter bottle, sugar, warm water, yeast, black plastic. Make enough to place in every dark corner.

The last time I regularly had two-liter bottles in my fridge was, funnily enough, preadolescence. I’ve long since traded soda for beer. Even so, I quickly ran through the entire stock of two-liter sparkling waters at my neighborhood mini-mart. Which ended up being okay. Because while further experimentation and methodical bi-weekly replacement may eventually have brought success, I quickly nixed the experiment. After the recommended two weeks, a peek behind the black plastic revealed only a dozen dead mosquitoes bobbing in the bubbly brown liquid. A disheartening discovery, as I still swatted about this many an hour. So in the end, the only thing eradicated was my motivation to make more ad-hoc miracle traps.

Two liters, as effective at trapping bugs as they are at keeping beverages fresh and fizzy.

Two liters, as effective at trapping bugs as they are at keeping beverages fresh and fizzy.

DEFENSE

#1 Strategic Use of Fans.

Outside, an upright fan blows full bore on my torso. A mini-fan points worthlessly toward my ankles, spinning the WAPA meter and doing little else. This keeps me relatively comfortable while writing on the porch in a stationary position. Inside, the most important fans have been the two in my bedroom. It’s a small room, and I wouldn’t need two fans if not for mosquito diversion. But until recently, it’s been an essential combination If I’m to sleep or meditate in peace. I can pull a sheet up to my nostrils, and they’ll waste no time attacking the top of my head. Even when lying on my stomach, a pillow draped over my face, leaving just a tiny sliver of air for breathing, a mosquito will find me. These are bites of the between the eyes/top of the ears/tip of the nose variety.

#2. Repellant.

When I became an island girl, DEET became my new fragrance. Out went the bug-attracting perfume, and on went the Off! The chemical aspect of this new lifestyle choice bothered me slightly, but at the time I needed an easy escape from physical suffering. My major life transition had added enough to the Worry List. The frequent spritzing of bug spray was simple and made life tolerable.

These days I avoid Off! in favor of the latest natural repellant I’ve bought with high hopes and low expectations. Lemongrass oil, the best concoction I’ve found to date, is of course, difficult to replenish, being a Rastafarian Agricultural Fair purchase with no contact info on the bottle. Most days, I lube my legs with a generous amount of oil, and walk around smelling strongly of the local bush tea, calves agleam like Richard Simmons dolled up for the David Letterman show.

Sadly, mine are rarely as baby’s butt smooth.

#3. Electric Racket.

While I’m far more dove than hawk, when it comes to the constant assault from mosquitoes, I quickly reach a point where violence is necessary. Enter the electronic tennis racket, a device I’ve historically snubbed as disgusting and dirty with those dead bugs on that metal thing. I’ll take the carcinogens, thank you.

Plus, I have not an athletic bone in my body. All memories of tennis attempts consist of the frustrated and sweaty chasing of balls around courts, under extreme duress. I must admit, however, the few nuggets of tennis coaching I recall from P.E. have come back to me with use. Specifically, being poised to spring into action while keeping my eye on the object of malice. Trying to kill them in my natural form, that of a sedate bookworm, all loose-limbed and sitting down, does not work. To do any damage, I must stand with legs hip-width apart, bent forward at the waist, ready to pounce in any direction.

The new practice has brought out a seldom displayed aspect of my personality: a mean-spirited, blood-loving competitive edge. I find myself taunting the mosquitoes with phrases such as, “You really wanna piece of me? I’ll murder you just like I did your pal,” and, “Come on fucker, I wanna see you fry.”

I try to ignore them as long as possible, absorbed in my work, until the never-ending attack on my ankles is more than I can bear. Of course, the minute I hop into action, sliding my chair backward across the tile floor (which has to annoy my downstairs neighbors), the mosquitoes hide, and I’m forced to use myself as bate. I try coaxing them back toward my ankles by doing a little weightless jig to spread my CO2 scent, being careful not to stomp on the floor and further disturb my neighbors. Still, I’m sure the repeated violent banging of racket on tile (my overhand is most accurate) arouses curiosity, if not ire.

All of this staring at the floor, waiting to strike, has led to the realization that there is one good use for white tile. One. It makes an excellent background for spotting the tiny vampires.

Considering that this mosquito battle has brought out some aggressive tendencies, it’s perhaps ironic that the most effective tool in making sure I have energy to fight another day has been the gift of a pretty princess mosquito canopy. Like a video game hero earning a magic shield after so many levels, the mosquito canopy has greatly improved my ability to wage war. Inside the net, comfortable in my bed, I am safe and at peace while my strength restores. With the sunrise, I can see my enemies perched on the net awaiting my re-entry into the battlefield. And, once again, I’m forced to become the reluctant yet ruthless hero of my own domestic reality game, spending copious time in a conflict I would very much prefer to avoid.

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That’s Warrior Princess to you.

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This entry was posted in Ashley Ladlie's posts, Creepy Crawlies, General, Island Advice, Lifestyle by Ashley Ladlie. Bookmark the permalink.
Ashley Ladlie

About Ashley Ladlie

Ashley lives on St. John in the US Virgin Islands where she can be found drenched in sweat while communing with the hermit crabs who live in her yard. The irony of living in a shac-teau on the most remote part of a tiny secondary island in the Caribbean while spending the majority of her time with a creature named after people who prefer solitude is not lost on her.

Despite constant inquiry as to how long she’ll be on St. John, Ashley has learned in her three decades on this planet that setting one’s life plans in stone is the best way to ensure their futility. For now she remains enchanted with the beautiful absurdity on her rock of residence, which is colorful in far more ways than one.

You can hire her to write and design for you at www.badashbabe.com.

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