After a recent aborted trip to Assateague Wildlife Refuge in Virginia, where mosquitoes both large and small drove us from the ponds and sea-shore, I sat down to discover a way to make peace with the ruthless insects that swarmed over us on that tiny slice of Eden on the mid-Atlantic coastline.
I took to my computer with the intent of learning something redeeming about mosquitoes. Really I did! I thought there must be some value to these blood suckers.
But, I’ve found none – NONE I say! They serve no constructive purpose in the ecosystem.
Even the bats and purple martin that kindly gobble these nasty critters will be fine without a mosquito entrée.
You may be able to predict what comes next… my diatribe against the vicious, ubiquitous mosquito! (Of the phylum Arthropoda, class Insecta, order Diptera, family Culicidae, according to the Columbia Encyclopedia.)
Mosquitoes don’t help the flowers or the trees; they don’t provide any worthwhile service that I can discover – except, perhaps, the task of keeping those of us who are wimps out of the wild, leaving us cowering on screened porches or swathed in specially treated, loose fitting, mosquito repellent clothing.
This is a photo of my personal enemy extraordinaire – the Asian Tiger mosquito! This ruthless pest arrived in the US around 1985 and has no plans to depart. What makes the Tiger mosquito particularly despicable is that, unlike other breeds that bite mainly at dawn and dusk, the female Tiger mosquito will attack anytime of the day. She seems to know no limits or understand the daylight-hours truce set up between humans and mosquitoes somewhere in the dim past.
There is nothing amazing about these nasty gals – yes, I said females. The male mosquito does not bite; he’s innocent of my wrath.
Are these insolent insects so wily and quick that they outmaneuver humans at every turn? No! Mosquitoes don’t move quickly – about 1 mph; they don’t live long – about 2 weeks. They don’t travel far – remaining within a city block of where they hatched, and they’re fairly stupid, perhaps “single-minded” would be a kinder description, but I’m in no mood to be kind.
So why are humans assailed on every side? sickened and intimidated by these small harpies? Why are they giving me sleepless nights, itchy welts, and an attitude that won’t quit?
Historically, the US Department of Agriculture, Division of Etymology has been waging war against mosquitoes, lice and bed bugs since the latter half of the 19th century – you guessed it, the Civil War. By World War I the USDA was hard at work searching for reliable methods of winning the battle of the bugs that plagued the armed forces. By World War II, DDT (DEET) was available and popular – and, as we later learned dangerous to EVERY living thing, plant. animal and insect.
In the early 1960s, Dr. Edward Kripling, the head of the USDA, Div. of Etymology, and author Rachel Carson were uncovering the same disturbing evidence; after less than 30 years of use, DEET was destroying all life forms indiscriminately. Her seminal work, Silent Spring echoed the policy changes Dr. Kripling was instituting within the USDA – stop the dogged application of DEET. Both Carson and Kripling urged the expansion of bio-control techniques in the struggle with destructive insects – pests.
Which brings me to my “call to arms”! (Yes, picture me with flame & trumpet here.)
I know we all have an assortment of bug-repellant lotions and sprays in our drawers and backpacks, but I propose we take up spades and garden gloves to expand our defenses against these ruthless Amazons of the insect world.
There are five pretty plants that seem to particularly annoy mosquitoes. I intend to head out to the nursery next spring and buy as many as I can afford. I’ll plant these cuties around my house and along my walkways! My garden will become a veritable jungle of smells that make those mosquitoes wince. (Gotcha!)
The five weapon war-plants are:
- Catnip: These hardy, weedy plants aren’t pretty, but they will do the trick. And, my kitties will love it. They’ll be drunk as skunks all summer long.
- Flossflowers: Also called Ageretum. These pretty purple blossoms and hardy plants need little attention. And, you can crush the leaves and rub them on your skin for added protection.
- Marigolds: Cheery, hardy and easy to grow from seed – they’re cheap protection and great in flower boxes.
- Beebalm: Also called Horsemint. Another cheap solution. Get a plant from a friend, and by next fall you’ll be able to pass on lots of plants from this easily-divided, hardy helper. Beebalm is popular with bees as well as unpopular with mosquitoes, an added bonus.
Citronella: This elegant. decorative grass tends to be a bit too hardy. You may want to plant it in pots to help control spreading. Also, pots are nice for moving about, should you find a favorite seating for your lawn chairs and require extra mosquito protection. (Suggestions taken from http://www.eartheasy.com )
These babies are cheap and hardy – qualities not unlike their arch enemy and mine – the female mosquito! So, join me. Plant away! We’ll pound out swords into spades and give those Culicidae a snoot full.
Thus begins my campaign of retribution – mosquitoes, beware!