Whatever you do, don’t feed the mosquitoes

By Sharna Johnson

CMI columnist

When did the hummingbirds start biting? It’s a flickering thought that comes seconds before it becomes clear that the thing attached to your arm is actually a prehistoric-sized mosquito.

It’s just a simple fact of life, things prosper when it rains — and that includes the bloodsuckers.

So while it seems as if, with fall upon us, mosquitoes should be a distant memory as we prepare for coming cold weather, as usual, nature appears to have other plans for us.

Seemingly out of place in what is typically perceived as an arid climate, not only do mosquitoes inhabit the plains of the southwest, they thrive from time to time, and this, the period after a monsoon season, is one of those times.

And they are huge and aggressive and plentiful.

Sometimes they strike when the sun is high, but most often they start to scour the region for victims as the evening comes on and the light dims.

The last week or so anyone brave enough to venture outdoors at dusk has encountered them, miserably waving their arms and getting back inside as quickly as possible while those attending evening outdoor events spend miserable hours hoping they will live to tell about it.

Not all that sneaky, their high pitched whirring is enough to make the scratching and swatting begin.

Sure, standing water is their breeding ground, but New Mexico skeeters seem to turn up great distances from water to leave welts on the unsuspecting.

It may be a surprise to know that if the bloodsuckers leave silver dollar sized welts, it’s one more thing you can blame on your parents.

Scientists have found that genetics account for about 85 percent of a person’s vulnerability to mosquito attack and dictate how a person will react to the enzyme left behind when blood is pilfered.

As to what draws them in, researchers say it is the carbon dioxide living creatures exhale that gets their attention. The more active a person is, the more carbon dioxide they put into the air, essentially ringing the dinner bell for the waiting mosquitoes, which can detect its presence at more than 150 feet away.

And if mosquitoes are leaving humans with bumpy, itchy skin, it stands to reason outdoor pets are a special kind of miserable these days.

Going strong after almost 60 years on the market, experts still recommend DEET insect repellents as safe and effective, along with a slew of other products on the market, which include repellent arm bands, mosquito traps, candles and sprays and even insecticide infused clothing — and there are numerous similar products to benefit pets.

Mosquitoes can be more than annoying though.

Least likely in the U.S. is malaria, but there is the lovely West Nile virus, which in most cases (human and animal) manifests no symptoms but can lead to short-lived flu-like symptoms. However, in a small percentage of victims, West Nile can cause meningitis resulting in death.

Already in 2013 there have been 13 cases of West Nile confirmed in New Mexico, including three in Curry County and one in Roosevelt County.

While there is a West Nile immunization available for horses — the effectiveness of which is unproven — there is no such vaccine for humans or pets, leaving little to do but avoid and prevent.

So do what you gotta do — swat, spray, be sedentary, wait to exhale, dip the dog, light stinky candles, stay inside until the temperature drops — but don’t feed the mosquitoes.

 

Sharna Johnson is a writer who is always searching for ponies. You can reach her at: insearchofponies@gmail.com or on the web at: www.insearchofponies.