TBT - The Trouble With Skeeters

Growing up in the rain belt of the Pacific Northwest - mosquitos were always a nuisance. But they did not cause a health problem for most of the locals. We had a greater threat from ticks that could carry a potentially fatal bacterium commonly known as 'Rocky Mountain Fever'.

In 1970 when I moved with my family to the Bay Islands, Honduras, we encountered one of the worst kind of flying blood suckers to bother man - Sand Flies! Nearly impossible to see - they had a bite way out of proportion to their size. During the day you could lather exposed skin with coconut oil to drown swarms of buggers, and at night you had to sleep with very fine mosquito nets or a sheet over your head - otherwise they would keep you awake all night. Truly a 24 hour torture when they were on the attack. The best remedy for the welts they left on the skin was a fresh cut lime rubbed over the bites.

When I lived at the wild animal compound near San Pedro Sula in 1976 I contacted Dengue Fever from a mosquito bite. Some call it breakbone fever, and that is what it feels like - as if some one had taken a baseball bat and hit you hard on every joint of your body! I had the workers remove the crocs and cayman out of the concrete holding pond and then I spent a couple days laying there in the tepid water until I felt better. Dengue was worse then some of the other unidentified tropical fevers I had contracted through the years - but the worse was when I had a week-long, semi-conscious delirium in Mexico back in '65!

And yes - I have been to the Mosquito Coast of Central America several times. As for mosquito infestation - not so bad, especially in comparison to Alaska! The hordes of those suckers in Alaska can literally darken the sky and block your vision. My brother, who I was visiting in Alaska, said it is all the large mammals, like moose and bears, that keep this mosquito population going. I noticed there are not many people in Alaska - and now I know the real reason why! That first day of my arrival in the Kenai Peninsula I met a friend of my brother who's hands were terribly swollen from an allergic reaction to the bites of one of the skeeter species they called 'White Socks'. I immediately went to the sporting goods store and got what looked like a beekeeper outfit to use for the rest of the visit.

About 12 years ago I started going to the upper Amazon region of Peru around Pucallpa. My only real bad experiences with hordes of skeeters on the Amazon was up into some of the tributaries of the Amazon River - and mostly at night when what ever breeze there might be during the day to keep cool and to blow away the pests would die. A close second to the Alaska experience.

Where Barbara and I live today is five miles from the Everglades, home of the Florida State Bird - the mosquito. You do not travel there without mosquito repellent. I just can not escape those bugs!

Obviously the real problem with mosquitos in the world today is not the nuisance of the bites, but the serious diseases they can transmit. Up until now man has been able to either contain the spread or the effects of those diseases to a degree. But now comes along the Zika Virus, a virus taken up by several species of skeeters and with an unknown timeline as to: 1) when will the virus be everywhere there are mosquitos and, 2) when will we have a vaccine for Zika.

Looking back through a lifetime of feeding blood sucking insects - it is no surprise that nature may have chosen mosquitos to put pressure on our species to control population growth. While we focus most of our fears on the destruction of the planet and humanity through warfare, climate change, or errant astroids - maybe we should be more concerned about the little mosquito that can seriously roll back the number of people on this planet.

While terrorism is a real danger in the world today - let us not lose perspective on the terrorism of the lowly 'Skeeter'. And if we could just get those blood-suckers in Washington to confront this real time disaster to fund the research and resources to deal with Zika!