End of the Line

Roy Blount Jr.’s Mosquito Quandaries

A piercing discussion on the point of mosquitoes

Photo: Barry Blitt

Will yelling and jumping up and down and gesticulating keep mosquitoes away?  

Studies show that on the contrary, yelling and jumping up and down and gesticulating just make mosquitoes chuckle. Their chuckle, of course, sounds like our whine.

Do mosquitoes sleep?

Not like we do. But they rest.

Is that a good time to sneak up on them?

There is no such time.

Are mosquitoes bothered half to death by anything? 

Elspeth Gnang-O’Dallion, an entomologist who lived with mosquitoes on the outskirts of Quito, Ecuador, for seventeen years, believes that if there is anything mosquitoes are at least highly bothered by, it’s no-see-ums. To put this in perspective, bear in mind that a no-see-um to a mosquito, size-wise, would be like, say, a raccoon to a good ol’ boy.  

Seventeen years?!

Dr. G-O suffers, if that is the word, from so-called itch hedonia, which causes a person to welcome or even to solicit the attentions of mosquitoes, due to itch-scratching addiction. 

The pleasure of scratching outweighs the distraction (as in “You are driving me to distraction”) of itch? In even an eminent entomologist’s mind? 

Eminence in entomology does not cause one to cease being a human being.

Well, I’ll be switched, as my daddy used to say. I can sort of see it. The appeal. 

And don’t think for a minute that mosquitoes don’t know. However, they prefer to take blood from someone who yells and jumps around and gesticulates.

I guess I can sort of see that, too. How about this: What is Tina Turner’s line after “funkier than a mosquito’s tweeter”?

Everybody knows that. “You got a mouth like a herd of boll weevils.”

Yes. Said to be an allusion to Ike’s voracious appetite for cotton.

Now you’re messing with me. How funky is a mosquito’s tweeter?

The male’s reproductive organ (the aedeagus)…you know what? Maybe you’d be happier clicking on “Discretion Advised: This Collection of Photographs Is Not Suitable for All Audiences” in your search engine, which leads to “Unedited Photos That Show Just How Crazy the Animal Kingdom Really Is,” from which you could go to “If You Have Dark Spots, Do This Immediately (It’s Genius!)” or “These Celebrity Couples Are Living Proof…”

Whoa! The aedeagus has a whole page on Wikipedia. OMG. Though wait a minute—the photo caption there says that it’s a water scavenger beetle’s dingus. 

Let’s not get off into—

Will an alligator eat mosquitoes?

Excuse me… 

’Cause I’ve been told, by someone who would know, that that’s why alligators sit around with their mouths open. Waiting for mosquitoes to land there. And chomp. So I have often wondered, is that how alligators develop a taste for human blood? Or is it the other way around? And is an alligator’s tongue impervious to itch? 

Excuse me! Please! Who is asking the questions? 

Can you scratch somebody else’s itch? To their satisfaction? Are you ever quite getting it? What if mosquito bites didn’t itch? Would we be covered with big old whelps all summer?

“Whelps”? A whelp is another name for a puppy dog. 

Naw, I don’t think so. “What a cute little whelp”? Naw. Whelps is what we used to call big old raised red places where a mosquito really chewed on somebody.

At any rate, mosquito bites do itch.

You got that right. If that ain’t so, then grits ain’t groceries. Funny nobody ever sang a country song about mosquitoes.
Remember Skeeter Davis? “Am I That Easy to Forget?” “Gonna Get Along without Ya Now.” 

But her biggest hit was “The End of the World.”

Hard to construe any of those as bearing directly on mosquitoes. Except, the element of whine… 

You know what? You can’t bear directly on a mosquito.

Unless you get lucky. 

But why in the world do mosquitoes want to whine? Complaining? Showing off? Notifying other mosquitoes to back off—I got this one? Do they think it’s attractive? Wouldn’t they be better advised to stay mute? Or is it that important to them, to not just bite but also to sound annoying? Or they just can’t help it?

We don’t know. We just don’t know.