Man vs. mosquito

Jeff vonKaenel

They are back. At 3 a.m., with a mosquito whining around my head, the world narrows down to me and that miserable insect. I am in one corner, 180 pounds, and more importantly, 10 pints of delicious blood. My opponent is the mosquito, with a normal weight of 1/15,000 of an ounce, before she fills up with my blood. What my tormentor lacks in size, she makes up for in speed and an amazing ability to disappear. But where my nemesis really shines is her reproductive capacity. My total reproductive achievement has been two children in 59 years. Over her lifetime, a single mosquito can lay 3,000 eggs. And she does not need to spend any valuable resources sending her offspring to college. This is clearly not a fair fight.

But I am not without resources. My major allies are the fine folks at Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District. They have the unenviable task of stopping the spread of one insect without destroying the environment in the process. That is quite a job. And this particular insect has been evolving since the dinosaurs ruled the world.

After carefully studying the ecosystem and the reproductive system of the mosquito, they have identified the mosquito’s Achilles’ heel. Mosquitoes need water to exist. By reducing their access to standing water, we can keep mosquitoes in check. And by keeping mosquitoes in check, we will only read about malaria cases instead of experiencing them. I think most public-health experts will tell you that the efforts of mosquito-vector employees save hundreds if not thousands of lives each year.

Even so, there are still more of our insect sisters than employees at the Mosquito and Vector Control District. So they can use our help.

For starters, do not put your grass clippings in the street. If you put your grass clippings in the street, they will likely end up in the storm drains, where they mix with water to create a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. Instead, return those grass clippings to your lawn. There, they will provide up to 25 percent of your lawn’s total fertilizer needs.

While you’re out in the yard, look around for any pool of standing water, even a small one. One small bucket of stagnant water can produce 1,000 mosquitoes per week. So drain wading pools when they are not in use. Empty, turn over or cover open containers. Change the water in your pet bowls and birdbaths once or twice a week. Clean your roof gutters every year. Don’t overwater your yard. And maintain your swimming pool. It only takes one whining mosquito in the bedroom at night to ruin your sleep.

Now, so far, in my battle with mosquito, the mosquito has come out on top. But with your help, we may be able to gain some ground. The mosquitoes may have been here first, and they may still be here when we’re gone, but we don’t need to make it easy for them. Thanks for listening.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.