Friday, September 3, 2010

Mosquitoes are not shy

I grew up just north of Detroit, in Michigan. It was an OK place to be at the time. Since then things have gone a bit south, but let’s stay positive.

One of the rituals of living in Mt. Clemens was at the end of the summer we would take the screens out of the windows, wash them thoroughly, and then store them safely in the garage until they were needed again in the spring.

Screens. Bugs outside – people inside. All the windows had custom-fit screens and the doors had sturdy screen doors as well. I never gave it a second thought.

Here in Brazil I have never seen a house with screens in the windows and I have certainly never seen a screen door (like on the sliding glass door out to a veranda, for example). Never. What’s up with that? There is positively no shortage of mosquitoes here. In fact, in Itaipú the bugs can be enough of a problem that we will close up the house at dusk (suffocating in the process) just to escape the nightly onslaught.

Now mind you, there may be houses with screens, but in my simple working and middle class orbit I have never come across them.

So we battle mosquitoes every night. Every night.

We have tried spraying the bedroom with bug spray (gross!), plugging in a little electrical bug-away thingy sold in the grocery store, burning citronella incense sticks (ugh!), and worst of all shutting us in behind a closed door and closed windows.

[racket getting recharged]

One ingenious gadget I love is the mosquito racket. This little electrically charged tennis racket does not keep the bugs out, but it zaps them dead if you can swing the racket and catch them in motion. ZAP! If the mosquito has already bitten you and is full of your blood: ZAP – ZAP – SIZZLE ZAP! (followed by the smell of fried mosquito and human blood).

So when I hear that annoying buzzzzzzz near my ear in the middle of the night I reach for the racket and wave it around until I am rewarded with a ZAP! Unfortunately this may happen 6 – 12 times a night and often it wakes Luiz from a sound sleep. But it beats getting bitten (again) – and I certainly feel better that I am fighting back!


Linds said...

I am scratching 3 mosquito bites as we speak and getting really bothered by the mosquito that is flying around biting me!!!
I needs to get me a racket!
I also can not figure out why houses don't have screens but I have no answer! There are on average 3 mosquitos that sit at the top of my bathroom mirror every single day. Que chato!

Ray Adkins said...

Dear Jim,

Window screens are a VERY AMERICAN thing, you won't find window screens in Europe either...and they have bugs in the summer and spring...they use the same strategies as Brazilians, if you have A/C, good, you keep them out, if not, close your windows and turn on your ceiling fans, mosquitos hate moving air, plus you can use those great repelent plug ins made by a GERMAN company called BAYER and other competitor brands, including some American brands such as SC Johnson...
I never heard of the electric plug ins being harmful for your health, but they are supposed to be used to windows open for better air circulation.
I used to see window screens at beach houses we rented in the 80's and 90's, don't remember ever seeing screened doors like the ones we have in the US.
I remember you would only find mosquitos in Sao Paulo close to the rivers, I never saw mosquitos in the city or any neighborhoods...also the cooler weather and Sao Paulo's altitude helped..
Do you live near a body of fresh water?
I think the eletric plug ins with bug repelents were very effective, you can even leave you windows open and they will work and keep bugs out.
I miss those eletric plug ins with bug repelents, I wish we had them here too...
I think Air Conditioners would take take of the mosquito problem, they hate cold air...
U can probably make some custom screens for your windows...or even have someone make them for you, ask at your local Hardware store, if they don't make them they might know someone who does.
In Rhode Island we have window screens repaired at our local ACE's hardware, because we have a very old Cape house, the new windows have much better screens.
I hope some of the tips help you.

Rachel said...

I plug in my mosquito thingy every afternoon, right before evening. That´s even if I close the windows.

Also know there are some bites you are supposed to squeeze and some you aren´t! I had a friend that saw a bite right after it happened and attacked my leg. It never itched! She said if you squeezed that kind of bite it wouldn´t bother you. You live you learn

Jim said...

Linds - next time you are in Centro you can easily find the rackets for sale by a street vendor. R$10.

Ray - thanks for the tips. In mid summer we close up and used the air conditioner in the bedroom, mostly to stay cool, but I secretly promote its use to combat mosquitoes as well. We live a block from the big park in the city, which includes a huge fake lake. Also, there is a big green space infront of the apartment. There may be standing water in there as well.

Rachel - I have taken to the macho approach of just ignoring the itch and toughing it out. Doesn't always work. ;-)

The Reader said...

I seriously need to get a racket. We have tons of mosquitos. Ray - do you mean SP city only?? Because we surely have them all over here around Campinas; we had them in our apartment on the 10th floor, we have them now in a house in the valley. Had dengue last year....yuck.

Jim, do the plug in things work?? Seems a wise investment.

As for the itching, we found a creme at the pharmacy that is AMAZING. Blue tube, green letters, called something like Phenargin. It's not in front of me so I am going off memory, but the stuff is amazing. Even stops the itching of those terrible sand fleas or whatever that always bite my ankles when we visit waterfalls and beaches.

Jim said...

Reader - the plug in things definitely help. Like Rachel said, it's best to plug them in a good while before you want to go to bed. I just winch at the idea of breathing whatever pesticide is being dispersed into the room. But LOTS of people swear by them.

Also, a warning about the racket. It really is an electrical device, as in, your curious boys may get a serious shock if they start poking at it with fingers or conducting material. It's a pretty good jolt. I know, because this curious older guy poked at his with a metal pen and BAM! I dropped that racket in a hot second. Ouch.

Be sure to buy the rechargable type, not one that uses batteries. Ours has the letters 'YPD' on the handle (no other brand name apparent). The first one we had lasted well over a year before it stopped recharging.

Mallory Elise said...

Oh. My God. You bought one of those rackets?!?!?!?! BAHAHAHAH!!! eeash so many times in São Paulo waiting in traffic the guys come up and try to sell to you, i remember saying "why do they sell these things?! who the hell buys them!!!" YOU! hehehehe. you just made my day :P

Jim said...

Honey bunny Malory - the racket really serves its purpose. Zap those mosquitoes dead and you can fall back asleep.

Anonymous said...

just get a custom made screen for your windows and doors...its not expensive at all.
I dont know this firm but try sth like this: