Lileks: It’s time to go on the offensive in the war against pesky skeeters

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS
  • Star Tribune
  • May 29, 2014 - 8:42 PM

At 12:01 a.m. last Monday I was bitten by a mosquito. One minute into Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer. Didn’t know if the skeeter had the decency to wait, or if they were all lined up waiting for the gun to go off. Gentlemen … hone your needles!

You’re frowning, because it’s the womenfolk skeeters who bite. You know that because you know more about mosquitoes than you like. How many do you think you’ve killed in your lifetime? Not enough, you say with a scowl that makes the guy in those “Breaking Bad” posters look like Gandhi. You only regret that their deaths were quick, but, alas, you can’t slap in slow motion.

Since the season is upon us, it’s time to learn how to avoid exsanguination. There are many tools! None work.

1. Never leave the house and sit in a room full of bats — if you can work from home that is. Advantages: no mosquitoes. Disadvantages: conference calls difficult to hear over the deafening sound of leathery wings

2. Spraying stuff on your skin. There are several kinds, from “kid friendly” to the presumably kid-hating DEEP WOODS. This also repels chiggers, so you do not end up chigged. Why do they make DEEP WOODS versions? No one ever says, “Heck, that’s too much bug repellent.” I want something that repels all bugs with such force I can stand on the roof and disrupt butterfly migration patterns from a distance of 60 miles. Advantages: sort of works, if you soak your clothes to the saturation point, then ignite the spray to create a long plume of flame. Disadvantages: You smell like a Vietnam-era chemical weapon.

3. Plastic bracelets that supposedly ward off mosquitoes. As far as I can tell, these prohibit mosquitoes from biting the area covered by the plastic bracelet, so in that respect they’re a pip.

Personal-area clip-on sprays. I don’t know if they still make these. Had one a few years back. Clipped on your belt, and exuded chemicals that made mosquitoes avoid your left side and circle around to the right. The instructions said it should not be used if you’re dealing with food or drink, but who sits around in the summer outside not eating and drinking?

4. Staking out a goat in the back yard to draw the bugs. Advantages: works. Disadvantages: Since skeeters are attracted not just by warmth but carbon dioxide, you have to make the goat hyperventilate.

This requires inducing panic, which is difficult, so you have to Google “how to panic a goat” and you transpose some letters by mistake. “Did you mean ‘how to panic a gaot’?” Google asks. “Show results for how to panic a gaot,” and you click on that because you never heard of a gaot. Ten minutes later you’re watching a YouTube video about baby gaots, and they’re just adorable. Some sort of weasel, I guess.

5. Citronella oil. I’ve found this works quite well — if you wear a flame-retardant suit, soak yourself in the oil and set yourself alight. Anyone sitting next to you will get bitten, though.

One year I bought six bamboo stakes with tanks of citronella, staked them out around the patio, lit the wicks, and felt like I should have had a pig roasting on a spit. Where would you get one? Amazon? What do I search for, swine? CUSTOMERS WHO BOUGHT SWINE ALSO BOUGHT THIS, and it’s flip-flops and a power drill. People are strange.

Wife says: “These torches aren’t working.” You respond, “Shhh, I’m comparing prices on beach shoes and a sow.”

6. Netting. This is the most low-tech solution available. Our back yard Target gazebo has netting that zips up for those nights when the skeeters are so thick you’re down a pint after five minutes outside. They still get in. Crawling on their bellies. Whistling the “Colonel Bogey March.”

7. I saw a cheap, easy way to build your own “eco-friendly” mosquito trap. The trap: Saw off the top of a 1.5L soda bottle. Fill it with 200 mL of warm water and 50 g of sugar, then add 1 g yeast. You’re thinking: great for catching European bugs, but American skeeters don’t use the metric system.

Granted. Use an online translator to figure it out. Invert the bottle part you sawed off, stick it over the mixture, wrap it in newspapers and place it in a dark corner. Maybe put a sign on it that says “FREE BLOOD.”

Does it work? I’ve no idea. I know the prospect of finding a plastic bottle full of drowned mosquitoes is deeply satisfying; you’d want to sing “AND MY HEART WILL GO ON” in a loud mocking parody of Celine Dion’s “Titanic” hymn. But if mosquitoes can lay a billion eggs in a bottle-cap’s worth of water, what could they do in 1.5 liters?

Better to smear yeast on a goat and put plastic bracelets around its legs and dig a moat and fill it with citronella. Chances are you’ll get at least 100 bites this year, but with this scheme? We’re talking 94, 95. Worth it. • 612-673-7858

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