Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1202, (19 -25 June 2014)
Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Issue 1202, (19 -25 June 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Summer’s endless joys

You may think summer arrived weeks ago, but officially the summer season starts June 21st, bringing with it nature’s myriad offerings. “And what is so rare as a day in June”, they say, “when the bursting buds of roses, are blushing pink and red”. Trees and shrubs are at their freshest and there are more flowers in June than any other month.  

The glory of those sunny days and starlit nights are not without a price.  

With the lazy days of fun and frolic, of luscious fruits oozing with sweetness, and the million flavours of cooling ice-creams, comes the buzz and ennui of an army of insects, out to enjoy their summer too.    

Swarms of bees flitter from flower to flower, house-flies wrestle over a crumb or two, fireflies and dragonflies waltz together as twilight appears, and gnats, ticks and beetles come in droves to join the fun.  Ants of every colour and size march in line and the unmentionable cockroaches, some black, some brown, help to get your spirit down. We tolerate the company of most of them, except for the one most obstinate, most hurtful and out to kill or be killed… and that is the deadly mosquito.

How more pleasurable would be our summers without the mosquito!

Where there are humans, there are mosquitoes and they have no mercy or compassion. They depend on us for their survival, and we oblige.

The deadliest of all is the female of the species! Her brain often functions better than ours. She takes her time picking her victim, but your special perfume is too seductive and her long legs are restless and ready to take off.  She makes her landing on your sensitive, sun-burnt skin and stabs you with her sharp probes.   Her saliva flows into the wound through channels that help her sip her cocktail with ease…

Before you cry in pain she disappears in the mist. That is when you know you have been bitten by a mosquito.

You become irritable and start to itch, and “if you are really unlucky, this little unworthy, useless insect can kill you.”

The female bloodsucker will  lay from 100-300 eggs at a time, in or near water, swamps, marshes or pools.

There are 2500 species of mosquitoes, but only a few are killers.  Some mosquitoes carry Malaria, others transmit yellow fever, but many do not spread any disease, they merely sting! Mosquito diseases affect more than 700 million annually around the world.  About 300 million new cases of malaria occur each year, killing 3 million, 1 million children in Africa alone.  Are you having a lovely summer, so far?

The story of mosquitoes is as old as the universe. They are found everywhere except in Antarctica. What are the summers like in Antarctica?

Is it possible that with every means of modern technology at our finger-tips we cannot get rid of a meager little insect?  The answer is obvious!

French scientist Charles Laveran was the first to see Malaria parasite in human blood. In 1880 he drew blood from a soldier of the French Foreign Legion in Algeria and under the microscope he saw little moving animals, a discovery that earned him a Nobel Prize in 1907. Unfortunately the discovery did not hinder the mosquito from roaming the earth to maim and kill at will. The war between killer insects and man continues.

It was not until 1910, ten years after its discovery that a drug was developed “chloroquine”, for the prevention and treatment of Malaria.  Now we got her, that base and nasty pest. Now our summers will be so much more pleasurable.

What was a mosquito to do?  In less than a century that resilient, menial, beast, developed a resistance to the drug and was wild and free again, unhampered by any earthly force. Are scientists embarrassed?

They tried to put the blame on economic conditions in infected countries. How can that explain that famous catastrophe that befell the greatest city in the New World?  In 1999 New York was gripped by mosquito fear when a mysterious outbreak of encephalitis, devastated both man and beast. The dead were everywhere, birds, horses and humans. Finally the (CDC) Centre for Disease Control managed to solve the mystery. It was the West Nile virus, a brand new potentially fatal mosquito-borne disease which found its way from Africa to America. Can anything stop that loathsome, offensive, ugly monster?

How can we help but admire this determined, tenacious, unflinching bug, which continues to thrive through the ages, mindless of all science and scientists.

If only mankind could learn a thing or two from that foul, groveling creature, that outsmarts man at every turn. There must be a way to convert this ‘queen of seasons’ into a truely regal holiday, avoiding the interference of this evil force. Setting up screens on doors and windows helps, and despite summer’s heat, long sleeves and long pants soften the blow. Insect repellent can be effective, but only indoors and who wants to be indoors during the summer. The mosquito looks and laughs at how inept and vain these mortals are!  

Were we to disappear many mosquito species would become extinct, but many will survive us. Unless we find a way to eliminate the diseases mosquitoes spread, it is the mosquito that will eliminate us, and there will no longer be any summer, spring, winter or fall, for mankind.

 


“Darwin would have been amazed at the speed with which these mosquitoes that exploit the human environment adapt and versify today.”

Andrew Spielman (1930 - 2006)
 

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