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In Our Own Backyard...Ouch!

I pulled my car into the driveway as I arrived home from work Monday night, and it was immediately surrounded by mosquitos. They bounced their bodies against the window glass and swarmed around the passenger door. It was kind of like a scene from an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

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I hesitated a moment, took a deep breath and plunged into their midst.

I sprinted to the house, and in only the split second it took to get my key in the lock, a cloud of mosquitoes swarmed me, landing in my hair, dive bombing my face and threatening to fly up my nose. As I plunged into the house, an entire platoon of the pesky critters was sucked inside with me. The rest of our Monday evening was spent dodging mosquitos inside the house.

That's pretty much the way it's been this spring. Just when we thought we had left the worst of the year behind us, along with the warm weather came the flies, ticks and mosquitoes in 100-year proportions.

There was a fellow in the news last week who set a fire near Cass Lake that got away from him and burned many acres, resulting in criminal charges. He told authorities the reason he set it — to keep the mosquitoes away!

The rain over the weekend, followed by a few hours of steamy warm weather, seemed to have leveraged a new hatch of mosquitos — one in greater numbers, and with more voracious appetites, than the batch that came before. I spotted two deer standing in the lake down by the shore in broad daylight, and when I zoomed in on them with my camera lens, I saw that they were scratching and swatting themselves non-stop — no doubt combatting the mosquito population as well.

When we went to bed that night and turned out the light, all I could hear was the high-pitched whine of what sounded like a room full of mosquitoes. I laid there, very still, and listened as the whine came closer and closer, buzzing past my ear and doing practice landings on my cheeks. I waited until the whine was very, very close, took a bead on just where it was coming from, and then slapped myself on the side of my face half a dozen times as the whine continued. A minute or two later, I heard one buzzing around the top of my head and swatted it, where it immediately got tangled in my hair and began emitting an even higher pitched death whine (at least I hoped so!). I then had to drag its smashed carcass out of my hair and hoped it hadn't been engorged with blood.

There are all sorts of theories on how best to combat mosquitoes, and I think I've tried them all. I can't stand the traditional bug sprays because anything that smells strong enough to keep away mosquitoes is bound to keep away friends and loved ones as well. The same goes for the citronella candles I tried burning on our deck one time. They emitted such a heady aroma that I swear I could taste it in my mouth when I bit into my steak that night!

My brother-in-law favors a "personal mosquito repellent device" that he clips to his clothing. It emits a bug repellent scent that is diffused by a battery-powered miniature fan and surrounds the person wearing it in a reportedly impenetrable cloud of bug-free bliss. It doesn't do much for the folks around you, but he swears by it nonetheless.

Our Pine Journal correspondent from the Wright-Cromwell district, Jennie Hanson, advises that the best way to avoid swatting at a mosquito and missing it is to first wet your hand. Then if the little culprit is a hair faster than you are, you are more likely to snag it by a wing, or leg, or the "hair of its chinny chin chin."

Other sources suggest mosquito nets, devices that emit electronic frequencies, tennis-racquet-like devices that "zap" them, or a whole host of home remedies. "Eat lots of garlic. Mosquitoes can't stand it!" advises one website, or even catnip — "You can drive cats wild and make mosquitoes run in terror," according to research at Iowa State University.

As I bemoaned my rough night of "unsleep" Tuesday morning, I noticed our cat Sunshine galloping around the house like a wild woman. She raced up and down the hallway, slid into rugs and crashed into door frames. At last, I realized what she was up to — she was chasing mosquitoes! With interest, I watched her for the next minute or two, and lo and behold if she didn't snag one right out of the air, trap it with her paw against the floor and then ate it!

I decided we finally landed on the near-perfect solution to this year's mosquito problem. Not only was the wild pursuit good for our chubby little cat — but so far it’s the only thing that has actually worked.