Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mosquito madness

Right before I moved to Cayman, I was warned about mosquitoes. Since in Bermuda, these pesky creatures are practically non existent, something we both loved, many Bermudians warned me about Cayman, asking me how I was going to handle it. I would have liked to know how it was that they knew so much about it. We did like the freedom from those mosquito bites in the three years we were in Bermuda and I would have like to have that remained the same here in Cayman. Not so! When you first get here you will notice that you do get bit frequently by mosquitoes, a lot. Something about new blood. It was horrible because I hadn't experienced bites and the itching it brought on since I was a child in India. I was told the application of rubbing alcohol and an antiseptic itch cream alleviates the effects of a mosquito bite. It does seem to work. Eventually though the mosquitoes tend to leave you alone as they move on to newer 'fresh off the boat' folk. But when you go away on a holiday and return, the cycle starts all over again.

If you're visiting me after the sun has set, you'll often find me ushering you in through the d
oor fairly quickly with my Hey how's it going? Quick, get in before the mosquitoes get in too. Of course I'll usher you out just as fast, not because I want you to leave, but because I just don't want to deal with the mosquitoes after. Piglet's 12 year old brother knows the routine by now. I've heard him tell Piglet, Quick get in before the mosquitoes get in too. Piglet can walk so slow sometimes. I joke!

How much of a problem are mosquitoes here in Cayman? Well, a big enough one. Mosquito repellent is sprayed everyone so often by a low flying airplane, and while I have to wonder how environmentally safe this is or how safe it might be if you're outside while this plane whizzes back and forth, just the noise generated by the plane is enough to drive away the mosquitoes, I think.

How much of a problem are mosquitoes here in Cayman? Well, a big enough one. This past Pirates Week Float Parade actually had a float on the history of
the mosquito and its effects on the Cayman Islands, complete with a couple of giant stuffed mosquitoes. Have a look at the collage and you will see what I mean. The sign has been retyped below and along with some interesting facts, my thoughts are in italics.

The Cayman Islands are famous for their mosquitoes which in the past reached levels that were unequalled anywhere else in the world. Mosquitoes were accidentally introduced sometime soon after European settlement of the islands, and their populations subsequently exploded. In the early 1940's the mosquitoes population was dense enough to suffocate cattle (fascinating and gross). Residents had to use smoke pan smoke - an aluminium pan filled with sand, cow dung, burning wood and coconut husk. (I've seen my grandmother use this back in the old days, before the days of mosquito ridding coils, although I'm not sure if she actually used cow dung...and if she did, where'd she get it from?). This would create enough smoke to ward off pesky mosquitoes. Most residents would keep their oil lamps burning very low, as the light attracted the mosquitoes. If there was a young baby in the household, cheese cloth was placed over the crib to ensure the infant was not bitten mosquitoes. If locals had to venture out, such as going to church at night they would use the local bush such as thatch to beat off the mosquitoes.

The Mosquito Research & Control Unit (MCRU) was established in 1965 when Marco Giglioli arrived from London. The first vehicle mounted Tifa Todd thermal fogging machine was in operation by the 1966 mosquito season. Initial mosquito control efforts were concentrated on the GerogeTown area and were very successful. Windrows of mosquitoes were reported in the streets each morning. Fogging machines increased in number to nine by 1969, using malathion diluted in diesel oil (
ahh the smell of my Bombay childhood. Something about it that makes you want to breathe in deep. Don't deny it!).

In South Sound mangrove swamp in 1971 as many as 600 bites per minute on one arm have been recorded (DAMN). The record trap catch for one night in the Cayman Islands is 793,103 from a single New Jersey light trap in Bodden Town in 1974 (die pesky buggers die!!!). There are approximately thirty species occurring in Grand Cayman (like we need any more of those. Seriously, what do
mosquitoes, like roaches do for us anyway?).

Needless to say, I've also been responsible for killing my fair share of mosquitoes in Cayman.


RI said...

"Not true about the new blood thing,because after thrity odd years, the critters wont stop biting me. Are you available so I can pass them on to you?"

Carol said...

Good post!

Debbie said...

Just read about your problem with mosquitoes in Cayman. Someone once told me (I can't remember who) that Avon has a special lotion which really works! They even took it on their trip to Africa and never got bitten. Check it out.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes - the Avon lotion is "Skin So Soft" It does work!! :) I have also heard that if you eat a lot of bananas that gets into your blood and "Skitters" like banana blood! ;)

ZenDenizen said...

I'm a total mosquito magnet. Whenever I visited India as a kid, they'd eat me alive. My legs are still covered in mosquito bite marks to the point where I almost never wear a skirt or dress.

@Anon, eeek, that would explain a lot. Bananas are part of my daily diet.