We're close to June Bug season, which means I'll probably have to buy a new computer. Every year I'm sitting outside in the evening, enjoying the pleasure of a fine summer night, and a June bug — basically dumb as a sundered thumb, clumsy as a drunk — goes down my shirt with a chittering buzz. GAAAAH! I bolt upright, fan my shirt, and the laptop takes flight.
If only someone would invent June-Bug-Season Laptop Airbags I'd be happy, but no. Thanks for nothing, Elon Musk.
This also means it's mosquito season, and the reports say it's going to be bad. Small dogs carried off. Thin people completely exsanguinated, looking like something you'd find when you unwrap a mummy. A whole new meaning to the word "weltschmerz." Does anything keep them away? Let's consider our options.
A can of insect spray from 1963. Probably works, because it's got all sorts of banned stuff, like DDT-infused Agent Orange with molecules of napalm-soaked asbestos. That stuff was so deadly you could kill bugs by waving the receipt from your purchase.
"Deep-woods" style modern sprays. Probably does something. "Deep woods" suggests you're in a place where you have to shave swarms of mosquitos off your arms with a machete, so obviously it has power. I don't know why you wouldn't use it all the time.
"Hey, hose down with this before you go weed in the garden. It's deep-woods-strength."
"No, thanks, I'll use the quarter-strength stuff that just makes the mosquitos pause for a moment before boring in."
The lemon stuff in candles. Maybe it works. If it's the scent the bugs hate, why not spray yourself with Lemon Pledge? Keeps the bugs away and gives you a shine that lasts for days.
Those little coil things you wear around your wrist. These work absolutely fantastic! But only if you take it off, draw it back like you're shooting a rubber band and nail the skeeter in midflight. Otherwise, I've never noticed that they do anything. Perhaps they extend a no-fly-zone around your upper portion, but that just means you get the dreaded ankle-bite, which itches 37% more than any other.
The electric thing that has some special light. We have one of these. It hums. I have to insert a cartridge that gives off a scent the bugs like — their version of Cinnabon Mall Aroma, maybe — and they get trapped in the lower compartment, where they die. When I opened up the dungeon the last time we used it, it was full of small moths, and I felt bad for them. Small moths don't do anyone any harm. They're like nerf ladybugs.
Netting. We used to have a gazebo from a big-box store. It had netting you could zip up to keep the skeeters out. It worked until I started hearing the theme from "The Great Escape" and discovered the mosquitos had tunneled under the patio and were coming up through the bricks.
OK, not really, but they found their way through any hole or seam, because the netting was like putting crime-scene tape around Old Country Buffet before a busload of starving men pulled up.
Bats. Works the best. Upside: No work required. Downside: If they get in the house you have to open a door to get them out, and that lets in the mosquitos, which makes the bats stick around to eat them, ending up with a gorged bat too fat to fly, so you have to leave it be and deal with a burping bat for an hour or two. If not bat flatulence. Those guys give an old dog a run for the money, let me tell you.
Setting yourself on fire. At first, no; you throw off a lot of CO2 when you're screaming, and that attracts mosquitos. Eventually, yes, but only after you've dropped-and-rolled and burned a 5-by-12-foot scar in your lawn. Then you have to reseed, which means watering, which means 1,034,583 mosquitos will spring up overnight in a standing puddle.
Leaving the state. Sorry to break the news, but other places have mosquitos, too. Arizona probably has the fewest, because the bugs snap their suckers trying to skewer all that sun-leathered skin. Iceland, by the way, is the only country that has no mosquitos at all. I don't think they even have a word for them, which is good, because it would be "kkidjttiingvriekd. (Pronounced "kkidj-ttiingv-riekd.")
Leaving the planet. There are no mosquitos on Mars, so that's one more reason to support efforts to colonize the Red Planet. I take it back: Thanks, Elon Musk!
firstname.lastname@example.org • 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks • facebook.com/james.lileks