Summer is a time to get close to wildlife, especially mosquitoes.
Now that summer is basically over, I’ll share my deep thoughts on flying insects.
QUICK CDT UPDATE: I’m in Steamboat Springs, Colorado where winter comes early and stays late. I should be in Grand Lake on Friday morning (maybe Thursday evening). I’m 75% done with yo-yoing the CDT. Now onto bugs…
Bugs are curious things. For example, there are four mysteries I would love to solve. Maybe you know the answer:
1) Do mosquitoes like dining with body parts around them?
When I kill mosquitoes I often leave their splattered corpses on my body. I figure it might clue in the other mosquitoes that attacking me is not such a wise thing to do.
If you walked into a fine Italian restaurant and saw several crushed human beings and body parts littering the floor, would you dine there? Wouldn’t you say to your date, “Um, honey, let’s go to the Thai restaurant instead...”
However, these intrepid mosquitoes don’t care.
MOSQUITO #1: “Hey, look there’s Ralph, George, and Wendy! They’ve all been smashed in the food court!”
MOSQUITO #2: “Wow, that sucks for them. Let’s go eat there anyway.”
Perhaps they’re just daredevils who enjoy the thrill of trying to inhale blood while a massive hand from the heavens is trying to obliterate them.
2) Do mosquitoes grab a number before attacking you?
While I’m hiking, I might have a dozen brave mosquitoes escorting me through the dangerous forest. I appreciate their company and concern. However, why is there just a dozen?
Let’s carefully review what happens:
- I step near enough to their ‘hood that they smell my blood (and carbon dioxide).
- They launch from their dark hiding places and start chasing me relentlessly.
- Even if I ignore them and continue walking for miles, there’s still only a dozen or so around me at any given time.
- Since I’ve been walking through miles of mosquito habitat, you’d think that I would attract more and more blood suckers as I progress through it.
- You’d expect that with every 100 steps I take a dozen mosquitoes would burst out of the shadows and join the all-you-suck-buffet.
This would mean that after 10 miles I should have tens of thousands of mosquitoes blanketing me. However, you never get thousands of mosquitoes around you at any given moment, even though you may walk by millions of them. Instead, only a dozen are hanging around you at any given time. This is strange because every human has enough blood to donate to thousands of mosquitoes. So why is this and who are those lucky dozen?
Also, when you walk for miles with a dozen mosquitoes around you, are they the same 12 mosquitoes that first pounced on you? Or do they get bored quickly and get replaced with some fresh new recruits?
If it’s the same dozen throughout the journey, then that would mean that crushing all 12 would leave you mosquito-free. However, that’s clearly not the case. Seconds after flattening six mosquitoes, another posse of six or so will happily show up.
If they’re always cycling new ones to replace the bored ones that dart away, then that implies that mosquitoes are even more sophisticated than Courtney Love.
Both of these scenarios imply a sort of Gentleman Code among mosquitoes. I’ve concluded that these flying vampires have detailed Rules of Engagement.
One big rule is that they have a quota system that must be honored. No more than X number of mosquitoes can converge on a victim at any one moment. I’m not sure who determines that quota, but obviously that quota increases when the blood donor stands still. Nevertheless, the quota rarely exceeds 100, even if millions of mosquitoes live nearby.
I’m not sure how they enforce this Code of Ethics. For example, let’s say there’s 500 mosquitoes loitering near you. Do they grab a number and wait till their number is called? Do the mosquitoes have five minutes to do their business or else they forfeit their position and have to go to the back of the line?
And why don’t they use overwhelming force? You’d think they might be more effective if they flung 666 mosquitoes on you, making it impossible for you to kill them all. At least a few dozen would get a good suck while you vanquish a hundred or so. Seems like a fair trade off, so why not do that?
I’ve concluded that mosquitoes are gentlemen who believe in a fair fight. They’re like the swashbuckler who tosses the villain a sword to give him a fighting chance. In short, mosquitoes are honorable sportsmen who figure that a dozen mosquitoes on one human is a fair fight. Sending 500 mosquitoes on one poor soul is a bit too mercenary and cruel for these classy insects.
(I know that all blood-sucking mosquitoes are female, and so it’s impossible for them to be gentlemen or sportsmen, but you get the point.)
3) Why are black flies like heroin addicts?
Call them black flies, horse flies, or deer flies. I call them blood-sucking-evil-flies-that-must-be-destroyed.
These flies look like bees who couldn’t afford the yellow paint job.
Instead of sucking pollen to help spread beautiful wildflowers across the mountains, they just suck blood and spread pain and suffering across the mountains.
After circling you at least 20 times and momentarily touching down to test the waters, they finally make a firm landing and bust out their excavation tools. They drill into your skin with their portable jackhammer, insert their proboscis, and start sucking away.
Here’s what curious about them. When they’re flying around and making their false landings, they’re somewhat hard to murder. Like flies and mosquitoes they’re fairly deft at dodging your blows.
However, once they start sucking your blood, they become profoundly intoxicated. Like a heroin addict, they hit such a high that they’re completely delirious in their ecstasy. While they’re reveling, it’s ludicrously easy to smash them. You can slowly move your hand toward them and they won’t jump out of the way. With no effort or speed, you can crush them and delight in the sound of their cracking organs.
Why don’t they dodge you once they start sucking your blood? Why don’t they attempt to escape their impending doom?
My theory is that they’re simply getting so high off your blood that they say to themselves, “I’d rather suck this blood for one more second and die than pull out and go home.”
However, there’s one other explanation for their odd behavior: they could just be stuck. Perhaps their jackhammer apparatus locks to your skin so tightly that it’s impossible to quickly disengage it. In short, once they start drilling they’re committing to the job site for at least five seconds. This gives you ample time to annihilate them.
Since most of their victims (moose, deer, horses, etc...) can’t swat them with their hooves, the flies can take their sweet time sucking away. Humans are a bonus species that they prey on. And unfortunately for them, they haven’t evolved a drill that can disengage as quickly as a mosquito’s drill. If my drill theory is wrong, then I'll conclude that they’re just like a heroin addict.
4) Is my carbon dioxide that sweet?
Finally, the last curious flying bug I've thought about are the little ones that just like to hover around you and whine more than a nagging mother.
What are they doing anyway? They just buzz around your ears, eyes, hair, nostrils, and mouth with no obvious purpose other than to drive you crazy.
I respect black flies and mosquitoes. At least they make their intentions known. They want your blood and are prepared to die for it. On the other hand, these flying weasels have no clear goal, other than distracting and annoying you to the point of insanity.
I suppose a biologist would tell me that they’re inhaling all the carbon dioxide that I exhale. However, if that’s what they crave, why don’t they just dive into the exhaust pipe of a Hummer?
That’s why I suspect that their true purpose isn’t to suck up CO2 from your breath. I believe their great, overriding evolutionary purpose is simply to annoy the crap out of you.
Luckily, there are ways to fight bugs. Listen to this 60 second MP3.
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