T he Sah-kah-mel or mosquitoes are really, really bad this year. I think I have used up every swear word I ever learned in Cree, English and even French complaining about these little insects. No matter what I do they manage to find me out on the land and even when I am inside my camp.
I have tried just about every product I can get my hands on to keep them away, but they simply scoff at my efforts. The most bothersome thing is that they hound me constantly with their high-pitched buzzing sound. One is bad enough but when there are hundreds it is quite maddening. I don’t recall a spring and summer as bad as this one but then again I think that is how I feel about mosquitoes every year.
Strangely enough I found that when I more or less just give up and let them attack me at will, lo and behold the little creatures seemed to bother me less. I don’t understand why this helpless tactic would work but it seems to. Actually I have even managed to appreciate them for their amazing resolve to survive for millions of years.
When I took the time to think about it, I realized that they predate humans by millions of years and that they actually even fed off dinosaurs. Although we consider our species to be at the top of the food chain, we pale in comparison to mosquitoes when it comes to shear survivability. They have managed to make it through all the crises that have affected our planet over millions of years. While thousands or even millions of species on Earth have become extinct, the simple mosquito has come through with flying colours and seems to have a bright future ahead no matter what peril comes to our planet.
While taking the time to watch landing mosquitoes the other day I noticed many interesting things. They have the ability to track warm-blooded creatures anywhere. They do this by being able to sense the carbon monoxide that we emit through our breathing and they also have the ability to locate us through odour. I watched as mosquitoes kept prodding my skin with their little spears looking for the best place to draw blood. They actually insert through their saliva an anti-coagulant that allows them to more easily extract our blood. The saliva is what causes one to itch after being bitten by a mosquito.
Only the female mosquitoes have the ability and role to draw blood from an animal. These hardy insects can survive freezing and dry conditions to emerge when water becomes available and the temperature is right. They feed mainly at dusk and dawn. Amazingly, they mate, and then the female lays her eggs in water. When the eggs hatch, there is a larval stage and soon the mosquito forms and takes to flight. Males and females seek each other out to mate, then the female looks for a good bloody meal before she lays her eggs. The most serious infestations of mosquitoes occur in warm, wet places and in terms of its habitat, these tiny insects can be found all over the world.
Although mosquitoes in Canada’s north are not known to carry disease, there is growing concern about the West Nile virus. In warmer tropical climates throughout Africa, South America and Southeast Asia, mosquitoes are very dangerous and transmit malaria and dengue. Malaria kills many thousands of people every year.
So, while you are battling this year’s infestation of mosquitoes don’t forget they have been around much longer than we have and will certainly be on this planet long after we humans are gone. That won’t seem like any consolation while you are beating at these pesky insects and scratching at your bites. Just be thankful that of the thousands of species of mosquitoes worldwide our northern friends do not yet spread dangerous disease.
They are part of the northern-wilderness experience in spring and summer and they are as familiar as red sunsets, the croaking of frogs, the tweeting of birds and the honking of the Canada Goose. That buzzing you hear has been around since the dawn of time.