The Face of the Enemy

Behold the female mosquito, nature's most effective killer.

The Face of the Enemy

Behold the female mosquito, nature's most effective killer. According to Wikipedia, disease spread by mosquito bites kills 700,000 people each year and may have killed half the people who've ever lived. Only female mosquitos bite, as they need proteins and iron from blood in order to produce eggs.

Scientists in some places are using the sterile insect technique of releasing mass numbers of sterile males to attempt to reduce mosquito populations. I wish some of those scientists would come to my neighborhood!

Mosquitos are a major problem in Jakarta, as they are throughout Southeast Asia. (They are called "nyamuk" in Indonesian.) I get bitten two to six times a day, that I know of. For better or worse, I think my body is starting to get used to the bites. Humans are generally allergic to proteins in the saliva of female mosquitos. But, as with most allergens, repeated exposure can lead to desensitization over time.

My mosquito exposure has definitely been repeated after decades in the U.S. southeast and 14 years of traveling to Indonesia. I'd say I'm starting to get into Ordinary Response Stage IV, where I mount an immediate reaction but no delayed reaction. I'm generally getting a red bump from a bite that goes away within an hour. Better than lots of ugly blisters, I guess.

You have to admire the tenacity and adaptability of the mosquito. Unlike many insects, mosquitos aren't attracted to UV light bug zappers. They aren't repelled by ultrasonic sounds or citronella, either. DEET and a few other substances do repel some types of mosquitos but don't kill them. Mosquitos have been around for 79 million years, and they aren't going away. So we're trying to combat mosquitos in our home with some technology.

We sleep inside a Javan Bed Canopy, so mosquitos can't get to us. (Unless we accidentally let a mosquito inside the canopy, in which case it feasts on us until we wake up. That's always fun.) The online store I ordered from apparently wanted me to note a preferred canopy color in a text box. I failed to do that, so our canopy has pink trim with lacey frills. It's got a lovely "Barbie's Playhouse For Mosquitos" quality to it.

A marketing image for a Javan Bed Canopy.

My other purchase is a Krisbow mosquito racket (or "raket nyamuk" in Indonesian). It looks like a tennis racket but has a grill made of wires. When a button is pressed on the handle, electric current flows through the grill. The racket can be used to swat at a mosquito in the air or to trap it on a surface. When the mosquito touches the grill, it is electrocuted.

A Krisbow Mosquito Racket

The electrocution comes with a loud snapping sound, a flash of blue light, and sometimes a burning smell. That all sounds awful. But after being hunted and fed on by a mosquito, I'm ashamed to say that electrocuting it is oddly satisfying. I kind of feel like Dan Ackroyd with a Super Bass-O-Matic '76!

That's good bass!

Main blog post image by Егор Камелев.