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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

The Most Irritating Bug On The Planet

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,



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At this time of year I can't think about a trip to Wisconsin without mentally bracing myself for the mosquitoes. Oklahoma does have mosquitoes but I never notice them on our property " apparently the strong wind and the close-by environment do not favor them. I cannot say the same about the house I grew up in.

On the warm summer nights it was an epic battle "upstairs" for us to be able to fall asleep. We'd open windows on all four sides of the house for a cross-breeze, and use fans to move air; all the same as soon as you were settled in bed with lights out the insistent "whining" of mosquitoes zeroing in on us would start. We were in the routine of doing a search and destroy mission for them before retiring, but mosquitoes are so tiny and so clever at hiding it was impossible to have a mosquito-free night.

Now I'll be the first to admit the reason there were so many mosquitoes in the house at night was our incessant "in and out" activities during the day. But that didn't change the fact those vicious little devils made our nights miserable. Hot as it was at times, you had to keep a sheet on, usually over your head. You'd hear the whining " and then it would stop. Did one land on me? Is it biting me right now? You'd tug on the sheet and slap blindly " the whining stopped. As soon as you settled back in, it would start again. You'd mash a few, but more kept coming. It was absolute agony, a torture they should study for use in terrorist interrogation.

We went through many cans of spray in the summer, with Mom commanding us to close our eyes and hold our breath as she sprayed us down. But we still got literally thousands of bites over the course of our childhoods. We'd play outside, swatting away, and spend as much time as possible riding our bikes where they couldn't keep up with us.

Because of the concern about mosquito-borne illnesses right now, you hear lots of advice from experts about making sure there is no standing water around your home. You are instructed to dump water in bird baths frequently, empty pails, and change animal watering containers. The truth is mosquitoes can travel one to three miles, depending on species, to find someone to bite. So while there is nothing wrong with emptying standing water, anyone who lives within three miles of a creek, marsh, river, wetland, lake, or pond probably won't see a bit of difference in the number of mosquitoes they have as a result. Mosquitoes have a slow, bumbling type of flight, but distance is not a significant barrier for them " so when I hear about people chemically treating ponds or water tanks, my belief is they are really wasting their money.

We used to talk about the "morning mosquitoes," the "nighttime mosquitoes" and "the really big black mosquitoes." I didn't know then what I know now " Wisconsin is home to 56 difference species of mosquitoes, with different habits and habitats. So we weren't imagining the differences in the mosquitoes, they are real. Not all mosquitoes bite people. Some specialize in amphibians (toads, frogs, etc.) and some prefer birds or deer. Apparently my childhood home was the center of the universe for the species that likes to bite children. Some are present in early spring, some species are nocturnal, some are active later in the summer. So the mosquitoes have organized themselves to ensure we are tormented 24/7 continuously by various species throughout the warm weather months.

What actually got me thinking about mosquitoes today was a wood tick. As I was sitting in church this morning, sometime felt funny in my ear, and I quickly discovered I had a wood tick dug into my right outer ear. I pulled it off immediately " we are biologically programed to remove parasites on detection " none of this "cover it with oil, wait for it to release and remove it with a tweezers" for me. Then I had a decision to make. Church had just started, and here I am with a tiny tick in my fingers. I couldn't think of any easy way to contain it until the end of church and I sure didn't want to release it in there, so I made my way out long enough to dispose of the little devil. And as I did, I thought I prefer to have this slow-moving quiet sneaker attacking me than the mosquitoes of Wisconsin dive-bombing my head.


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