It feels somewhat silly to say that I hate mosquitoes. Who doesn’t, right? I don’t know anyone who gets a warm, fuzzy feeling when they think of any kind of insect. But even those among us who collect bugs and other such things are prone to exclude mosquitoes. Examine a dedicated entomologist’s collection and you will find arthropods of every description, properly and primly pinned and displayed. You’ll find neatly labeled boxes of butterflies, moths, even roaches. But no mosquitoes. No one wants to be reminded that there is one creature on this planet whose sole meaning for existence is to suck our blood.
Instead, we share a passive/aggressive relationship with these, the only predator who specifically targets humans. This “do unto them” attitude may very well go back to the first primal encounter. As they buzz hungrily above our epidermis, searching for the perfect place to land, we delight in slapping them just at the moment they see success, then look hungrily for another to slap. This battle will doubtless continue until one or the other species finds itself on the brink of extinction.
One such encounter between man and mosquito occurred on a weeklong backpacking trip in Colorado with my son, Christopher. There, in the Colorado wilderness, I learned that there are depths of mosquito hell I hitherto could not have imagined even while reading Dante or Stephen King on a lonely, windy night.
There is something unholy about the mosquitoes in Colorado. I know, everything is supposed to be bigger in Texas; but what the mosquitoes in the Rockies lack in size they more than make up for in aggression. At 10,000 feet, with several hundred of them swirling around your head, size hardly matters. And may I add a heart-felt “Thank you!” whoever you are, who invented Deets. With Deets liberally applied to the few exposed areas of skin (face and hands) those pesky mosquitoes could only hover, however menacingly, inches above our skin or right in front of our faces. But they wouldn’t land. And I, in my naiveté, thought that would be sufficient.
My son and I were sitting across the campfire from each other, drinking hot chocolate and coffee when one of the hundred or so mosquitoes who had settled into an all-too optimistic landing pattern just above the Deets fumes suddenly went into a nose dive and flew under the rim of my glasses — and was caught between the lens of my glasses and my eye. If you’ve ever seen a mosquito on the inside of your car window, you may have noticed that they don’t seem to have any desire to crawl across the glass looking for a way around, like flies do (sensible, if nasty buggers), they bounce against the windo in an effort to punch a hole through the glass itself (stupid, and even nastier buggers).
There wasn’t enough room behind my glasses for this mosquito to actually bounce against the lens. Instead, it caromed back and forth between the lens and my eye — buzz — tp — buzz — tp — buzz — tp — alternatively hitting the lens and splatting against my retina like a flying, buzzing, pinball.
I immediately jumped up and yelled, “Mosquito!”
This confused my son, sitting a cross the fire, because we were both surrounded by several hundred mosquitoes, and reinforcements were arriving every moment.
“Behind my glasses!” I added. While this clarified the situation, it did not elicit the sympathy I expected. (Insert sound of son laughing here.) Here I was, dancing around the campfire in syncopation to the strange rhythm of the buzz-tp of the mosquito and the counterpoint of my son’s laughter. The obvious solution, to take my glasses off, didn’t occur to me at that moment. (I’m told that in a real emergency, people often neglect safety training they may have received.)
“You’re an Eagle Scout,” I yelled at my son. “Do something.”
“They didn’t include this in our first aid training,” he said. At least I think that’s what he said, trying to choke back the tears and laughter. He found it difficult to get enough breath to speak; but I don’t think it was the altitude.
At that moment the buzzing stopped. I thought I was free — and so did the mosquito — by now it was as thoroughly confused and dizzy as I was as it flew out from under my glasses. But before I could celebrate our mutual release, it buzzed straight up my nose.
While this elicited a choked snort followed by a sneeze that blew said mosquito straight into the campfire, I can’t say it resulted in any satisfaction for me, certainly not the primal satisfaction of the hunt that slapping a predator that is bent on feeding on you gives. No, that mosquito might be gone, but it had left an indelible mark on my psyche. I would never feel safe in the wild again. At least not until I got contact lenses.