Monday, June 14, 2010

Spawn of the Devil (7.15.08)

Here in northern Illinois, we've had a wet summer. Great for my garden, bad for mosquito-haters - and who doesn't hate mosquitoes?

I'm no defender of these horrid bugs, like alien Agent Pleakley in the Disney movie Lilo and Stitch, who believes Earth is a nature preserve for the endangered insect. I always crack up at the scene where Pleakly (voiced by the great Kevin McDonald from The Kids in the Hall) squeaks, "Oh they're nuzzling my skin with their noses!" Right before they devour him.

I can't help thinking these hideous spiny creature must be Satan's minions - their evil instincts drive them to sneak attack, dive-bombing from behind, at the back of our knees and shoulders. When I see one landing on the soft cheek of one of my girls, I'm actually incensed at this brainless bit of flying whine. One night recently at Fox Lake, where flooding has turned yards into stagnant swamps, we watched a cloud of squeeters throw themselves at the glass door, trying to break in for our blood like a mindless zombie horde.

I know mosquitoes bring more than annoyance. I understand the dangers of the horrors they carry: Encephalitis, West Nile, meningitis.

But I can't stand Mosquito Abatement nights. Last night I heard the weird alien whining-shushing sound before I saw the yellow flashing lights that wiped over our house like crazy searchlights. It was like a scene out of War of the Worlds (actually, our battle against insect life is a kind of war of worlds, isn't it?) as I ran through the house to close all the windows, trying to beat the truck that left a deadly mist in its wake.

Now I've got the creepiest feeling knowing that our entire yard and house have been sprayed with pesticide. Hey! I'm trying to be organic here! No more grabbing a couple of ripe cherries off my tree to savor as I pick up the morning paper.

And what to do with my plans for a rain barrel? Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. It's so not easy being green.

If you live in Lincolnwood, Niles, Glenview, Northbrook or any town east of these, you can call the North Shore abatement district to be notified when the trucks will spray in your neighborhood. There is also a no-spray list, but only homes with medical reasons will be added. In our neighborhood, the homes are so close together and the truck moves so fast, I'm not sure how the fog will obey the order to stay off my yard.

Here is the Northwest district's website. The Desplaines Valley has a site here, South Cook County's is here and the rest of Illinois can get info here.

When I take my girls to a shady playground in the late afternoon, we carry along a bottle of some all-natural citronella-peppermint-cedar-lemongrass-geranium-eucalyptus spray that smells fabulous but probably works about as well as any perfume. We spray it towards the bugs to push them away. Maybe we could drown them if we squirt enough. This concoction is too wimpy to even dare to use the words "insect" or "repellent." Instead, I'm spraying my kids with "herbal armor" for "outdoor protection."

But I also realize that we are in the bugs' territory, at their party hour. I've camped next to swamps and lakes; I've worn a lovely mosquito net hat and gloves in July just to eat a quick buggy dinner before retiring to the tent at seven pm. I know that we need to endure a little Satan if we want the heaven of the summer out of doors.

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