Friday, September 14, 2012

Attack of the Killer Mosquitos

Much as I love living in Oaxaca, my skin does not. Between sunburn and bugs, I look like a boiled spot prawn. Of all the uncomfortable aspects of the Mexican way of life (and there are many) I hate bugs the most. Mosquitos are actually only one of several biting insects around here. There are hordes of mosquitos, and their bite is potentially dangerous because of the prevalence of dengue fever. Here in the city, we don't have to worry about malaria or yellow fever, but in the coastal areas you do. 

Even more annoying, however, are the tiny biting flies that you seldom or never see. I happen to be especially allergic to these bites, and the wheals that they leave cause the most intense itching I've ever experienced. Also there is some other bug - I have no idea what - that attacks the feet and ankles exclusively. These feel like flea bites, but as all the floors are polished concrete I doubt that they actually are. 

paloma's legs

Ants. There are more varieties of ant than you can shake a stick at, and every one of them hungers for human flesh. Hope sat down in the wrong place and a couple of big black and red ants got into her underwear. That kind gives you a nasty, painful bite that leaves a welt that lasts days. Out walking in the countryside the other day, I suddenly felt as though I had walked through a patch of stinging nettle. Looking down, I saw swarms of tiny, nearly invisible red ants on my lower legs. The dance I did and the sounds I made during the next twenty seconds have never before been heard on this earth, and I fervently hope they never will be again. My legs stung for hours. 

My poor children look like victims of a nasty form of child abuse. They have literally scores of bites, and they scratch the tops off again and again, leaving bleeding sores and, eventually, small unpigmented scars. I hope they won't be permanently spotted like leopards, but I just don't know. 

The mosquito net is a wonderful invention and it saves many thousands of lives  (for less than ten bucks you can donate a mosquito net to a family in a malaria ravaged part of the world and quite likely spare a child years of pain and disability  here ). However it is of limited usefulness to us here. Yes, it definitely helps us get a better  night's sleep. But it doesn't guard against the daytime throng. For that, you need Deep Woods Off, 25% DEET. Yeah, I'm aware that it's poison, but I don't care. I'd bathe in the stuff if I could. My kids hate being sprayed, but I sneak up on them and spray them in their sleep. 


  1. Oh!! That sounds horrible Aimee. For all of the terrible biting creatures here in Oz I don't think they could match what you describe.
    Lately we are seeing an increase of the Jolly Jack jumping ants, they are about 1 cm. long and are black with a reddish tan splash of colour on their body and true to the name they jump along the ground when any one approaches. Their bite is very painful and they bite more than once.
    I do hope your youngsters recover with out any permanent scars

  2. Jumping ants sound like something out of a nightmare! Yes there's a plethora of dangerous beasts here - black widow spiders, coral snakes, even poisonous caterpillars! Who knew?

  3. Have you tried lavender oil on the bites? Or citronella as a repellant? I don't know if those things are available there, but you'd think there'd be a "mamacita's" recipe for such things!!

  4. You just cured me of any desire to live in Oaxaca. ;)

  5. This was not a good experience for you and your kids. Being attack by different bugs is very disturbing. But in all of these bugs, mosquitoes are the most dangerousA; good thing you have a net and a spray against mosquitoes. - Maurise Gelman @