Watching a cloud of mosquitoes descend on your body is one of life’s more unsettling moments. I had been idly batting at the bugs for the majority of my hike, gleefully killing two or three as they came to rest on my exposed forearms, but I was never truly troubled. Caught up in the majesty of nature, I didn’t sense the growing multitude buzzing around my head. I crested the final hill sweaty but accomplished, ready to relax with my book on a nearby bench. As soon as I halted, though, I was enveloped. A single swat at my leg murdered no less than five of the blood-sucking parasites – another swat could easily have killed five more. Like Napoleon at Waterloo, I was overwhelmed. Admitting defeat, I turned and headed back towards the trailhead. What began as a hike now became a sprint for the car lest I be sucked completely dry, collapsing like a withered balloon on the side of trail, moaning as engorged and satisfied mosquitoes laid their eggs in my ears. The image in my mind was terrible and vivid and I ran without looking back.
Amazonian natives no doubt experience such thrills/horrors every day. As a pampered Midwestern boy, used to homes with walls and air conditioning, being encompassed in a ravenous cloud of mosquitoes is about as enjoyable as a series of swift kicks to the jubilees. It’s not just mosquitoes either – I’d be happy to never encounter any insects in the future. Living naked in the jungle, when the Amazonian boy awakens to find a foot-long centipede in his hammock he probably grins and thinks, “Breakfast!” When I find a solitary quarter-inch long ant struggling through the fibers of my carpet I cringe and think, “How soon can I move?” I don’t necessarily want to see all bugs dead, I just want to see them somewhere else. Like, the Amazon for instance. They can all just go there. I hear it’s a good place for bugs, what with the rainforest and all.
I understand that the little creatures are essential to life on Earth, churning the soil, decomposing our leftovers, pollinating our plants. But I mean, we live in the future, don’t we? Haven’t we determined some other method of ensuring that plants continue to thrive? If pollination occurs when a bee rubs his butt on one flower, then flies to another and rubs his butt on that one too, I think it’s safe to say we could hire someone to do that. Put some homeless guy in a hair suit and have him walk through a field of wildflowers. Bam, pollinated. Isn’t that better than trusting nature’s abundance to mindless drones who will gladly commit suicide simply to inflict a sharp sting of pain to a hapless passerby? And these are bees too, widely considered useful and productive members of the animal kingdom. What about all the other slimy little fuckers? How important to society can a creature really be if it has to build a cocoon and literally dissolve itself before it can turn into an adult equipped to actually do shit? Or having to constantly shed your exoskeleton to become a slightly better version of yourself? Or the fact that most bugs exist only to fuck and die? How is that of benefit to Mother Nature? Is she amused by their impressive lack of function? Are they nature’s jester? I just don’t get it.
Perhaps these are only the desperate thoughts of a tired, damp man, sitting in his car, admiring his freshly pockmarked legs. As the red dots grow and swell before his very eyes, he realizes that his blood was siphoned off purely to propel pregnant female mosquitoes to a pool of stagnant water where they can safely lay their eggs and propagate their species. This is no Red Cross shit, no saving the lives of crushed Bangladeshi cloth workers with donated blood shit. This is thievery, pure and simple. Precious blood stolen so that next year when the man returns this hiking trail, today’s episode long forgotten, the mosquito’s children, freshly emerged from their larval stage, can land on the man, suck his blood, and begin the cycle anew. It’s enough to make anyone reconsider the worth of “the great outdoors.”