Their method for stalking us is to sniff the air for our natural byproducts —carbon dioxide and body odor, then follow us around waiting for their chance. Next time you’re being harassed by mosquitoes when walking in the Camp Salmen woods, try suddenly turning around and you’ll likely find some of them in your wake, admiring your lovely odeur. This is why the key to avoidance involves dousing your body with sharp, repulsive counter-odors that hide our lovely scent.
One report says there are fifty-two species of mosquitoes in all of Louisiana, at least eighteen in each of the state’s 64 parishes. The most, 44, are in Orleans Parish, of course. St. Tammany proudly boasts at least twenty-six. Since most of us don’t get a chance to scientifically capture and examine each one under a microscope to make a proper identification, we must rely, instead, on the aftermath of a mosquito’s bite in order to classify them.
Depending on the time of year, location, rainfall, temperature, barometric pressure, humidity, wind, time of day, orneriness and other factors, there is the bite that stings when it happens, the bite that is undetected until the mosquito is long gone, the bite that makes a large, swollen welt that lasts half a day, the bite that makes the deep, aggravating itch, the bite of the slow, furry, oafish mosquito that’s easy to detect and swat and many others.
The mosquito of the moment is Aedes aegypti with its cute little striped legs. It’s long been known in this part of the world, having been responsible for helping kill hundreds of thousands of Louisianans in the 1700 and 1800s by spreading the Yellow Fever virus. It is remarkably well adapted to sloppy human habits like leaving lots of water-filled places amongst our rubble, junk and trash in which to breed. They also make it a point to be awake and biting during the day when we are most presentable.
An interesting video on the Internet shows how it’s done. Each bug is actually a tiny, miniature, flying hypodermic needle. They land on the exposed flesh, grab hold of some hair and bow their heads as if in prayer (praying they don’t get caught) and gently, almost tentatively, lower their proboscis. In a grotesque scene on YouTube reminiscent of the movie Alien the proboscis actually probes into the skin with several fine, pointy tongues that nervously twitch and twist between skin cells until they find a living, pulsing blood vessel and stab it to begin diverting the host’s lifeblood to the inflatable, flying tank above. They also spit a little back in to infect the host with whatever virus they happen to be carrying that day.
What in the Hell they do with this blood they’ve stolen and how it can possibly be used to bring about the miracle of life to the offspring of this hideous creature matters not at this point and will probably not be explored in a future column.