A Not-So-(NEO)WISE Decision: Mosquito Swarm

Let me preface this entry with an announcement: I broke the internet yesterday. I didn’t mean to, but WordPress gave me the dreaded “white screen of death” while I was running updates, and I had to use my resourcefulness to navigate through tutorials and whatnot to figure out how to un-break the internet. Long story short, if you’re reading this, I guess I fixed it.

anchorman celebrating GIF

So…if you really are reading this, let’s talk NEOWISE. The photographer in me was desperate to get out and take some photos of this once-in-6,800-years comet that was just discovered back in March when the rest of the planet was justifiably concerned with things happening on the ground. It’s July now, and the comet came into view this month. I thought it was time for a field trip.

I decided to try to get my photos during the evening twilight. Earlier in the month, it was visible in the pre-dawn hours, but morning isn’t my finest hour. Evening was a better choice if I wanted to get a good shot. I knew it was likely that I wouldn’t be able to see it from my house due to the city lights, which prompted me to drive towards the farm fields away from town.

I’m from the Delta, but I still managed to underestimate the most formidable summertime force that descends upon the flatlands as the evening darkness falls–the mosquito swarm.

I pulled off the road and tried to adjust my camera settings for some (hopefully) good shots so that I could just hop out of the car, put the camera on the tripod, and use the remote shutter release to snap away once NEOWISE was in view, thus limiting my mosquito exposure.

Good plan, right?

Home Alone Idea GIF

WRONG. I was out of the car for two whole seconds before the swarm found me. My grand plan went out the window as the mosquitoes invaded my car, my ears, my arms, my legs…everything. I scrambled and danced as I secured the camera on the tripod.

Focus? I didn’t care about that anymore. I could see the comet, so I could at least claim having seen it. However, I really wanted a good photo. Yeah…wasn’t happening this time. I snapped four pictures before I drove away with the windows down in an attempt to rid my vehicle of the bloodthirsty little beasts. The only shot that came close to looking okay-ish was this one:

At least I saw it. It wasn’t that blurry in real life. (I think. I’m not sure. I was moving around too much.)

The following night, owing to the fact that it was higher in the sky than I expected it to be, I thought I’d try to step outside my front door and see if I could see it. The mosquitoes in my neighborhood are not nearly as bad as they are near the rice fields. I couldn’t see it, but I thought that I might catch it by taking a few long-exposure shots with the camera. I was marginally more successful in that outing, even catching a passing airplane (or satellite, or possibly UFO) in one photo.

Let the conspiracy theories begin.

The mosquito bites I earned outside of my front door were limited, although I still have plenty of them to scratch from my field trip. Not the smartest move, but I suppose the bites will serve as a reminder not to try that again when NEOWISE returns sometime around the year 8820.

An Observation: Alternative Winter

This February in Arkansas has been quite sweaty. The trees have been confused enough to go ahead and bring out their spring wardrobes.

Umm...wait. Please...don't wear that yet. It's February. (Hot Springs, Arkansas on February 17, 2017. Yes, FEBRUARY 17.)
Umm…wait. Please…don’t wear that yet. It’s February. (Hot Springs, Arkansas on February 17, 2017. Yes, FEBRUARY 17.)

Anyone who knows me knows how much I hate mosquitoes. I’ve been concerned, because if the daffodils and whatnot were already making their appearances in MID-FEBRUARY, exactly how big are the vicious, blood-sucking monster mosquitoes going to be this summer?

Or…is it a non-issue? Let’s say the upward trend in daytime highs continues and the temperature decides to average out at a toasty 350 degrees this August. Mosquitoes (and human beings) probably can’t survive at oven-room-temperature. (It’s good for that cake I’ve been meaning to make, though.) We could ask our friends on Venus for advice since they stay a tad warmer than that, but–wait, we have no friends on Venus. It’s uninhabitable thanks to a few factors…temperature being but one of them.

So…would someone please turn on the air conditioning?

I woke up today to typical February temperatures, but it was a bit odd feeling that chilly and looking out the window at the blooms. I get the impression that I’m going to be knitting blankets for the tulip trees soon. Because, as we all know, some of the worst winter storms can still occur in Arkansas in March. I don’t want that to be the case, but the past several years have taught us a few lessons.

I’m not quite sure what to make of this alternative winter. I just hope the mosquitoes aren’t the size of pickup trucks by June.

A Summer’s Tale: Pest Control

I know that many people are worried about mosquitoes this summer, and rightfully so. They are disease-ridden, foul-mouthed, vile little critters.

Dirty Needle Mosquito

To compound the situation, 2016 in Arkansas could be classified (so far) as “The Year It Rained.”

(Author’s Note: I’m not trying to make light of the serious problems we have going on involving mosquitoes. However, that doesn’t mean that mosquitoes are any less of the annoying nuisances that they have been in the past, and this is the part of their personalities on which I will be focusing in this here blog post.)

You can find mosquitoes all over Arkansas, but insofar as I can tell, none are as vicious as the ones who reside in the Delta.

Let me preface this by saying that I love my friends in the Ozarks. However, the next time one of my friends in the Ozarks complains about the two mosquitoes that gave them one bite last summer, I want to show them a picture of a Velociraptor and explain to them that the creature in the photo only represents a tenth of the ferocity of the evil, blood-sucking, soul-stealing Delta monsters that bring thirty-five hundred of their friends to carry you somewhere over the rainbow on any day that ends in “y” between the months of May and October.

Whew.

On second thought, I could just invite them over for a few days so that they can get the full experience.

I’ve seen the mosquitoes in the hills, and I’m not even sure they qualify as mosquitoes. In fact, they just look to me like slightly bigger gnats.

I feel that I’m qualified to make this distinction since I have lived in both the Ozarks and the Delta. Face it–your citronella candles are useless here.

Try this. You'll get used to the popping sound.
Try this. It looks just like a tennis racquet, but you’ll get used to the popping sound. What could possibly go wrong?

I’m trying to decide what kind of habits I should adopt this year to minimize my contact with the bugs. I’ve come up with three possibilities.

1. Dress in “beekeeper chic.” (See also radiation suit.)

2. Keep the fans, air conditioning, and vacuum running constantly. The combination should make it difficult for a mosquito to find a landing site.

And…the most practical option…

3. Do the best I can and hope it’ll turn out okay.

I think I’ll go lather up with my favorite summertime perfume: Eau de Off.

An Observation: Age And Relativity

I am 421 months old today!

I don't look a day over 415.
I know, I know…I don’t look a day over 415.

Okay, so my real birthday was a month ago. Counting your age in years as you grow older just makes more sense than the increments you used in your youngest years.

When I was eight and a half years old, I asked my mom an important question.

“When do you stop counting the halves in your age?”

“When you’re 35,” she responded.

(I still haven’t figured out if she was serious or not, but it doesn’t matter now.)

All of the units of measurement of age are quite relative. Milestones change for different times in your life, and with good reason. When you’re a baby, a month is a long time. If you’re a month old, then half of your life has been the average lifespan of your typical mosquito.

Ah, mosquitoes. The bane of any Southerner’s existence in the summertime. It serves as little comfort that they don’t live very long in proportion to our lives, because they repopulate very, very quickly…so that we can scratch our legs for months.

Proportionally speaking, a week’s worth of living could make a mosquito eligible for AARP.

I think the “old-timer” mosquitoes sit around in rocking chairs on the front porch of an arm or a leg and reminisce about the good old days…a week ago.

They discuss something worth remembering, like their best meal.

“Remember that time Mr. Jones was asleep? Talk about an all-you-can-eat buffet! That’s livin’! He didn’t swat at me or nothin’! He just kept on snorin’!”

Then, they might start remembering “old” friends.

“Yeah, Joey. Good guy. Told him to stay away from that light. But, he was a stubborn kid. Just a couple of days past the pupa stage. No convincing that kid to listen to his week-elders, though.”

“And what about ol’ Pete? Man, he was only thirty minutes away from retirement when that flyswatter got him.”

As young children, our ages are measured by the minute, day, month, and then years. Beyond that, we begin to obscure it even further by referring to decades.

“Well, I think she’s in her forties.”

Whatever you choose to use for age identification purposes, just remember this…at least you’re not a mosquito.

Age gracefully, my friends.