We have four seasons here in upstate New York: almost summer, summer, almost winter and winter. Some places have something called spring and autumn, but those are only a rumor around here. We go from plowing the driveway to cutting the lawn in about two weeks, and on the other end, the leaves race the snowflakes to see which one can hit the ground first.
Simply put, it’s either warm or cold and right now, it’s warm. Warm weather to me means tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes, and murders of crows that caw madly at 5:00 in the morning. This wakes us up so that we can go out and pull the weeds that grew two feet tall overnight in the tomato garden.
Warm weather also means insects.
We had the normal awakening of insects at the beginning of our almost summer season, but the mosquitoes have been the worst that I’ve ever seen. Unless the wind is howling at hurricane levels, it’s next to impossible to stay outside at night without looking as if one is wearing a jumpsuit made out of tiny, throbbing mosquitoes; and if that isn’t bad enough, now they come out during the day.
I can remember when mosquitoes only came out at dusk, where they annoyed everybody for a few hours, and then they went away. They were the insect versions of shy vampires, but by some odd fluke of nature, we now have a variety of mosquito that is active during the day. I blame the Twilight movies for this. For years, vampires had to stay out of the sun, and they only came out at night while skulking around candlelit mansions. Twilight vampires love the daylight so much that they sparkle their way through the sun going to school, getting ice cream, and hanging around in shopping malls. Mosquitoes caught on to this and evolved almost overnight into a Team Edward of annoying daytime bloodsuckers. This has made daytime in the summer challenging, to say the least.
Mrs. G. and I have a daily warm weather routine of enjoying our morning coffee out on the back porch while still wearing PJ’s and slippers. It’s a little thing we do to catch up on conversation, and it allows us time to steel ourselves for the day ahead with a little java and bird watching. Recently though, the 24/7 lifestyle of mosquitoes has changed that. Instead of a quiet, relaxed, easing into the day, we now resemble a pair of thirteenth century flagellants, slapping at ourselves with one hand while trying to steady a cup of coffee with the other. There is no escaping these hungry skeeter-beasts, but I’m not ready to give up the outdoors yet.
We have tried an assortment of insect repellants, starting off with the organic stuff. The concept was appealing, but both of us smelled like lemons mixed with a head shop. These didn’t work, as the mosquitoes laughed at our natural attempt to dissuade them. Next came a fancy device that clips on the belt, much like a giant pager from 1980. There’s a little fan inside that is supposed to blow some sort of repellant, but that didn’t work either. The mosquitoes actually liked this one, and I could see them floating in the wispy breeze of the fan while roller-coastering their hands, much the same as people do through an open car window.
Next came the scented bracelets, which didn’t work either but they looked very grunge rocker. Then we tried citronella candles and Tiki torches with citronella-laced fuel. These sort of worked but we had to burn a lot of them. Finally we caved. If we wanted to stay outside during this seasonal mosquito orgy, we’d have to use OFF. It’s the only thing that works, and we found a variety that isn’t too greasy. Once one gets past the whole dousing of the skin with a chemical that actually repels something, it works well.
The bigger battle is keeping them out of the house. My wife thinks that there is some sort of trust system in place, so she will often leave the door open when she lets the dog out. As she stands around enjoying the night air and looking at the stars, I can see dozens of mosquitoes drifting into the house while carrying suitcases, making plans to stay the entire length of their two-week lifespan flitting around the bedroom. Oddly enough, I’m not worried about catching some sort of mosquito disease, although there are a lot of them: Malaria, Chikungunya, Dengue, Yellow Fever, St. Louis Encephalitis, LaCrosse Encephalitis, Western Equine Encephalitis, West Nile Virus and the worst of them all, Itchy Red Bumpitis. None of that bothers me, but let one of these little buggers buzz in my ear, and I’ll sit up in bed with a flashlight and a flyswatter, eyes twitching and ears on high alert. I can’t sleep until I nail the blood fiend.
In some ways, it’s a small price to pay for all of the good things that summer offers, but come September, I’ll be counting the days until October because summer is a fickle season for me. I love the weather and the fresh tomatoes and berries, and the overall flexibility and ease of life during these warm months, but the insects? I don’t know how you folks in the warmer climates do it.