Helter Shelter

Skeeter-killin' man

When I was a little boy, my mother would try to slip a little Sunday-school wisdom into my head every now and then, just to keep me on the right track. One summer day, she wound up, and pitched this: "You know, son, God put everything here for a reason."

To which I replied, "Oh yeah? Then what's the reason for mosquitoes? They bite us, suck out our blood, and make us miserable. What else to they do? Anything good?"

As best I can recall, that was the day my mother quit preaching. The mosquito question did her in.

I had good reason to hate mosquitoes. Half of the Jowers property was a real enough swamp, and we Jowerses were mosquito farmers. If I walked out our front door, took a right, and went 50 feet, I'd be standing in ankle-deep mud. If I stayed there for 50 seconds, mosquitoes would cover me up like hair on a monkey's chest.

The townsfolk tried to thin the mosquito herds. Most summer evenings, a little truck rolled through town, shooting poison out its tail like smoke from a rocket. My buddies and I would chase the truck on our bicycles, and ride along in the plume. I suspect that some of my old bike-riding pals have some neurological issues now. Maybe liver issues, too. But those could be unrelated.

Anyhow, I hated mosquitoes then, and I hate the little sumbitches now. I try to kill as many as I can. Usually, I can feel when one lands on me, and I smack it dead before it can stick its evil little proboscis into my skin. Sometimes, though, one will penetrate my defenses, and I'll end up with a bite.

I've noticed that out-of-town mosquitoes leave bigger welts than local mosquitoes. I take every mosquito bite personally, and I hold a grudge. I want to pay back mosquitoes for all the misery they've caused me over the years, and I want you people to help.

Here's what you do: Wreck the mosquito habitat. Girl mosquitoes (which are the ones that bite) lay their eggs in standing water. Whenever you get rid of standing water, you get rid of mosquitoes.

Ever look in a birdbath, and see little worm-like things squiggling around in the water? Well, those are baby mosquitoes. You should blast the water out of your birdbath at least once a week, and put in fresh water.

Chances are, there are more baby mosquitoes in your clogged-up gutters. Get your gutters cleaned out, and make sure they're pitched the right way, so water flows to the downspouts. Check the splash blocks at the bottoms of the downspouts. A whole lot of people set splash blocks assbackwards, with the little dam on the low end. That means water will stand-and mosquitoes will grow-in your splash blocks. Turn them around the right way. After a rain, dump all the water out of your flowerpot saucers. If you've got outdoor pets, change their water bowls every day.

If you've got old tires in your yard, get rid of them-not just because of the mosquitoes, but because a stack of yard tires is a pretty good sign that your whole life is heading down the wrong road. You're one step away from getting arrested, half-naked, on Cops. Getting rid of the tires just might help, and sure couldn't hurt.

While you're at it, cut down any tall weeds you've got growing, then cut your grass, and keep it cut. Adult mosquitoes like to congregate in tall weeds and grass.

Here's what you don't do: Don't buy a bug zapper. They kill a lot of bugs, but they don't kill enough mosquitoes to make any difference. Two bad things about bug zappers: First, most of the bugs they kill are useful, for instance, bugs that eat other bugs. Second, when a really nasty bug-like a poop-eating housefly-hits a bug zapper, the bug's filthy innards get turned into an aerosol, which heads straight for your eyes, mouth or nose.

I know, some of you eco-types are thinking, "Purple martins and bats! They'll eat the mosquitoes!" Well, they will eat mosquitoes, but like the bug zappers, they won't eat enough to make any difference. Mosquitoes are a tiny fraction of purple martin and bat diets. The ugly truth is that the people who sell purple martin and bat houses have been messing with you, just like the people who make those useless plastic laundry balls. If you want mosquito-eating predators in your yard, build a pond, stock it with fish, and hope a lot of spiders build webs around it.

Which brings me to this: My mother was right, mosquitoes do have a purpose. In fact, I can think of two. First, they're fish food, and fish are good eatin.' Second, they taught me that if a boy has any sense at all, he'll move away from the family swamp the first chance he gets.