Quiet Desperation

Mother Nature just decided to wing it


Mother Nature spent more time naming some of her children than she did others. Allegedly it took her three days to come up with “platypus.”

It’s known she spent over an hour deciding on “hamster.” My understanding is that she was especially pleased with herself after creating “gnu” and “gnat” on the same day, confounding friends with two different “gn” pronunciations.

But when it came to naming one — the story goes — she said, “Let’s get this over with as soon as possible.”

Why? Because an example was whizzing around her office, annoying the heck out of her.

One followed me inside today after I mowed the lawn. Therefore, this essay.

They’re forgotten about in the winter because they’re more active in the summer, even though the female can reproduce year-round.

If you haven’t guessed, I’ll give you some clues.

In 1958, a film that ended with the words, “Help me. Help me,” was named after this aerial pest.

Its name was also the title of a 1961 Chubby Checker dance song that reached number seven on the U.S. pop chart.

The song is almost as annoying as the insect.

All of Mother Nature’s children, no matter how bad they are or seem to be, have something good about them.

This is true for spiders and snakes.

Bats have been getting some bad press lately, but bats eat a lot of insects, and that means fewer insects to bother us.

However, a fly is good for nothing.

The fly, and specifically the housefly, is a nuisance.

They are worldwide, including the Artic and the tropics (where they are abundant.)

My sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Thomas at Acacia Elementary in Fullerton, California, used to catch them in mid-air.

A Venus flytrap is fun to watch. It will eat a variety of insects and arachnids, not just flies.

An assortment of papers, traps, and ribbons, including the Catchmaster 931 Giant Fly Glue Trap, is available online and in hardware stores. Warning: They work, but it’s not a pretty sight, and they don’t know the difference between a fly and a ladybug.

Ladybugs, along with being cute little devils, dispose of crop-damaging aphids.

We don’t have flies around here in the numbers they do in other parts of the country. The same goes for mosquitoes, another one of Mother Nature’s mistakes.

“Mosquito” is Spanish for “little fly.”

Mosquitoes cause the deaths of over 700,000 people every year. Some estimates are even higher.

Male mosquitoes don’t bite humans, but females do. Most of us don’t even try to make a distinction, and dispose of both whenever possible.

Male and female mosquitoes buzz, by the way.

According to Mosquito Squad, “Today, 90% of all malaria deaths in the world occur in Africa, south of the Sahara.”

Fortunately for us, mosquitoes prefer humid, tropical regions.

Which brings me to humidity. Few things vex me as much as humidity. Houseflies, mosquitoes, and humidity.

You can watch all three in “Deliverance,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” and “The Prisoner of Shark Island.”

The prisoner referred to is Dr. Samuel Mudd, who was sent to Shark Island as punishment for treating John Wilkes Booth after Booth shot President Lincoln.

Mudd was eventually pardoned, partly because, as a physician, he was able to stem a yellow fever outbreak on the island caused by mosquitoes.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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