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The Buzz on Mosquitoes

Lenore Skenazy on

I guess it shouldn't come as a big surprise that the mosquito looms large in Native American mythology.

Sort of like the mosquito looming large in my bathroom right now.

I just climbed on the toilet to try to kill it, but of course, it zoomed straight down, practically begging me to lunge for it, break my ankle and spend the rest of the spring lolling on the porch as one big, sweaty, all-you-can-suck buffet. Try the shins -- they're fabulous!

Still, I know that even if I remain on my feet, handy with the swatter and doused in DEET, this is a war we humans cannot win, because we've been fighting it longer than we've been fighting anything else, except perhaps the cable company.

Consider the fact that all the ancient legends I've unearthed about "How the Mosquito Came to Be (So Annoying)" happen to start with a giant beast intent on eating the population alive.

In the Iroquois version of this myth, two towering mosquitoes hang out on either side of the main drag -- a river -- eating canoe paddlers whole. One giant bite is all it takes. When the tribesmen (and, in particular, the canoe paddlers) finally have had enough, they summon their mightiest warriors to fight the mosquitoes and kill or be killed.

 

Be killed they are. Half of them die in battle. The remaining braves redouble their efforts and spear the giant skeeters over and over. Then, for good measure, they tear 'em apart and at last, the giant insects are dead.

Or are they???

Well, if they were, this myth would be called "How the Mosquito Disappeared and We Moved on to How the Buffalo Got Its Wings," right? (Right.) What really -- mythologically -- happened is that out of each drop of the dead beasts' blood came a tiny, buzzing, vengeful Mosquito Jr., intent as ever on eating the population alive.

Which sounds about right to me.

...continued

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