To get a true measure of the mosquito situation at CA, we decided to talk with a lifelong campus resident, Anopheles Quadrimaculatus.
“Call me Annie,” she insists in an accent that seems just faintly Transylvanian, waving her antenna as a form of greeting. We are meeting for an evening snack at Caffé Nero. She slides her proboscis into what is (I hope) tomato juice…
“So, where is your kind most common?” I ask.
Annie tells me that mosquitos generally like to congregate around water. Beyond that, she adds, it really depends on the type. “There are 52 types of us in Massachusetts alone, you know,” she says, “some of us prefer natural pools, and some may be able to reproduce in artificial pools, like buckets. A few real creepy types even like slow moving water. And just last night my cousin laid a hundred eggs in a glass of water someone left behind the chapel! The general idea is to keep close to our preferred water source. Personally, I will probably lay my own eggs in the pool next to the field behind the buildings, or in a slower part of the river if the pool dries up. I think many other mosquitos at CA have the same idea, and will probably stick close to those water sources.”
“When are mosquitoes the worst?” I ask, thoughtlessly.
“Worst?” she asks, as a small furrow of annoyance appears above her compound eyes.
“I meant, um, most interested in feeding?”
“My agent told me this article would be sympathetic, but I knew that was too good to be true” Annie sighs, before continuing. “Well, I suppose your article will be human-centric. Everything is, these days. But I would like to point out that a minute annoyance for you means that one of us has achieved our purpose in life, and has obtained the sustenance we need to lay hundreds of eggs. Also, we don’t try to make our bites painful for you – they’re only painful because we pump our spit into the wound. The spit stops the blood from clotting so we can get more. You’re allergic to the spit, so your body reacts… So really the itching from the mosquito bite isn’t our fault, it’s yours!” Seeing my stony expression, she quickly moves on. “Anyway, most of us are at the top of our game in the early morning and at dusk, though some of us will eat all day or late into the night. Say, what time is it…?” Her compound eyes seem to fix on me, almost as if she is seeing me in a new light… I decide that this might be a good place to end the interview, and thank her hurriedly.
Suddenly the question of what is being done to thwart mosquitoes seems important, so I turn to the internet. According to the town of Concord’s website, there is a mosquito management program that monitors larval population in wetlands, and makes sure that drainage areas are not blocked so that there is not too much standing water where mosquitoes can breed. I then went to the website for the Eastern Middlesex Mosquito Control Project, devoted to controlling mosquito populations in and around Concord. The website corroborates all of Annie’s information about mosquitoes’ habits. Furthermore, the Encyclopedia Britannica also confirms her account of us being allergic to the spit, not the bite itself. Finally, the CDC spoke on how to avoid mosquitos: wear long sleeve clothing (weather permitting) or insect repellent if you’re in an insect-heavy area.
As I watch Annie flap off in the direction of the chapel, I’m certainly glad to be inside at dusk!