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Health guide: A conversation with a mosquito

January 12, 2013

Ilooked around twisting my head frantically from right to left and from left to right in an attempt to find the source of this constant, irritating buzzing. To my horror, I saw a large mosquito hovering near my ear. I swatted it with my hands, but it proved to be too crafty.

It kept on circling my head and evaded my every swat. I was about to give up and yield to the inevitable but suddenly the mosquito stopped and said, “Hello! Are you a writer? I have seen you typing away on your computer.”

I stared at the pesky, disease-carrying, blood sucking insect with amazement.

“Staring is rude you know. Why don’t you take my interview?” it said.

“Interview! Your interview?” I repeated stupidly “Of course. I am a celebrity; you know or rather my species is. Reports about us appear on news channels, newspapers and radio. Pamphlets are printed about us and distributed but, thank God, you people don’t pay much heed to all the warnings issued about us.”

“We don’t?” I asked weakly. The mosquito seemed to enjoy my stupefied expression.

“No, you don’t. Do you know in spite of our very small size, we are one of the deadliest creatures on earth? We cause many deadly diseases like malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, and encephalitis that causes inflammation of the brain. We are also carriers of heartworm, which can be lethal to your dogs and cats. Do you have one?” It looked around searchingly. “No I don’t. Well Mr Mosquito…”

“No, no,” it interrupted me “I am Madam Mosquito. Don’t they teach you anything in school? Only female mosquitoes bite humans and animals; our male species feeds on flower nectar only.”

“Okay ma’am. I would like to ask you a few questions if you have time to give an interview,” I asked politely. “What did you mean when you said we don’t pay attention to warnings about your species?”

“People can be very selfish sometimes. They think that just because they have sprayed their homes with pesticides, they won’t become our victims. So they completely overlook the condition of their neighbourhoods,” the little beasty said.

“The truth is that just a few inches of standing water is all it takes for a female mosquito to deposit her eggs. With all the garbage and filth human beings accumulate in their neighbourhoods, we have plenty of breeding grounds. We specially love old tires, pots, disused buckets, cans and any other junk left around, and you people do leave around plenty.”

Hmm. It had a point so I felt it was useless to argue. I hurried on to my next question. “Tell me about your likes and dislikes.”

“That’s an easy one. We love the rainy season. Because people of this country love to throw plastic bags everywhere, your drains and gutters are always clogged. There is so much stagnant rain water for us to breed upon. That is the best time for us.”

“Why do you think the developed countries have been more successful in eradicating mosquito-borne diseases? Don’t you like their blood?” I asked.

“I think it is because of two factors. There is much more awareness and community spirit in the developed world,” Madam Mosquito said philosophically. “There people rely more on pesticides. Pesticides are dangerous because they may kill us but they also kill other beneficial insects, like butterflies, honeybees and fireflies besides causing a lot of harm to the environment and human health.

“In the West, people take care of us while we are in the larva stage. They are more conscientious about removal of stagnant water in residential areas and garbage disposal. When they discover a new way to control us, they make sure that all communities participate on large scale.

“For example, dragonflies love to eat us so they are introduced to the habitat in large numbers. In some US towns, dragonflies are released every summer as a natural form of mosquito control. Many types of fish are also known to consume mosquito larvae, including salmon, trout, catfish, goldfish, guppies and mosquito fish. They are added to fountains, ponds, etc., on regular basis. Swimming pools are kept chlorinated. They do a lot of research on us and frankly that makes it very difficult for us to operate in their countries. So we prefer it here!”

By looking at its sly smile, I knew my time was up. THWAT! I used an old newspaper to get rid of Madam Mosquito, but the onus is now on all of us to get rid of these disease carrying insects through collective efforts. After every rainfall, we should check our home, school yards and gardens for junk that collects water.

A thin film of oil can be poured over stagnant water to inhibit their growth. If you know of any place, where mosquitoes are breeding in large numbers, do not ignore it. Ask an adult in charge to fumigate the area, write to newspapers or find government websites and raise awareness about this menace. Let’s join hands to eliminate their breeding grounds and save ourselves from the deadly diseases that they carry.