The other night I met two of my friends for dinner and—though it was very early—we were yawning directly into our drinks and meals. It was not pretty but there was nothing to do about it. “I’m sorry,” I said, “Mosquitoes have been biting me mercilessly the last three nights and I have not gotten a wink of sleep.”
After telling my friends about my waking nightmare, one of my friend’s eyes grew huge.
“No way,” she said. “We have been experiencing the exact same hell!”
In the world, there are 3,000 species of mosquitoes, 200 of which exist in the United States. (Thank you American Mosquito Control Association.) Only females suck human blood, in order to get a nutrient they need to develop their eggs. Usually, fall brings about two events in the lifecycle of a mosquito: mating season, a process whose end sees the death of the male mosquito; and a period in which female mosquitoes start lying dormant in warm, cove-like places, and far away from you, for the duration of cold weather months.
Normally, the season’s first near-freeze initiates this period. Unfortunately, that period has not yet arrived in New York, or not enough times anyway to nudge the mosquitoes off to a cozy, distant hiding place. Instead, they may choose a place—like all of Brooklyn—which is still warm and safe. So, though the calendar tells us it should be cold and I keep trying to wear tights, larger forces in the universe have decided to give us a heatwave instead, and, incidentally, female mosquitoes–and their human bloodletting–an extended run.
So: I did some research very much for my own purposes but if any of you are also experiencing the worst part of the November heatwave, here are some things you can do–reasonable things that do not include, despite the Internet’s insistence, sleeping in a tent or under a net, or taking medicine that will turn me into a “walking mosquito bomb“–that could help you escape the mosquito feeding that has made me a miserable zombie.
- Place your prone body directly in front of current, like a fan. Mosquitoes hate wind.
- Place your prone body directly in front of an A.C. because mosquitoes don’t like cold weather.
- Sleep with the lights on. This is not fun at all, but lights are a decoy that will give mosquitoes amnesia about the closeness of your beautiful, nutrient-rich blood.
- Douse yourself in bug repellant. Again, completely not preferable, but way better than scratching yourself awake for five hours straight. Diethyltouamide (DEET) is the best chemical repellent, as long the repellent contains about 20% of the active ingredient.
- Sorry to have to break it to you, but: Don’t drink alcohol. There was a study done in 2010 that found men who drank three cans of beer were bitten 30 percent more than men who did not (women, I guess you may as well do yourself a favor, too, and wake up not hungover and if it happens to help you avoid being a mosquito meat stick, all the better).
- Rub gross balms on your body: One made of parsley and vinegar is supposed to be great, as is lemon balm, and garlic juice–or, if you want to be a real professional about it, just eat a ton of garlic. Your skin will excrete something that mosquitoes find disgusting, but humans will too, so.
- Don’t be an idiot: Remove standing water from your home–which includes water in a pot, or in your sink. Mosquitoes like hanging out around water as much as they do blood.
When all else fails, I guess you can stoop to the lowest common mosquito repellant denominator and lay naked on your bed, waiting to kill whatever lands on you. Trust me, you’ll try anything when you’re still awake at 4am.
If you fail, here’s a tiny silver (maybe more like dim-gray) lining: Mosquitoes may be one of the most prevalent carriers of deadly disease on Earth, but they’re also a vital part of our ecosystem (because things that are bigger and seem more important than them, like birds, bats, and spiders, feed on them). Their extinction–because they take up a significant portion of the lowest rung of the food chain–would really screw things up.
You might be sleep deprived, but you can (metaphorically) rest assured: You’re actually helping to save the planet.
Finally–rejoice! It’s supposed to dip to a frigid 57 degrees twice next week.
Follow Natalie Rinn on twitter @natalierinn