To DEET or not to DEET

What’s bugging me, you might ask? Like many others who live along the upper Texas coast, mosquitoes are bugging me.

Today’s “Beaumont Enterprise” reports that salt marsh mosquitoes are out in swarms in the area and are worse than normal because of recent rains. It is fortunate that the salt marsh mosquitoes do not carry the West Nile Virus. But West Nile has turned up in Jefferson County, where I live, and I usually don’t see a mosquito until it has feasted upon me. Thus, I can’t tell whether it is the salt marsh or some other type.

I have to remind myself to coat the exposed parts of my body with insect repellent before going on my morning walk. I have two kinds of repellent, both of which contain about 7 percent DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide). But the usually reliable S.C. Johnson product, Off, doesn’t seem to work as well as Cutter. Maybe it’s a smell thing. Smell is one of the factors that make human flesh attractive to mosquitoes, according to the Centers for Disease Control:

“Female mosquitoes bite people and animals because they need the protein found in blood to help develop their eggs. Mosquitoes are attracted to people by skin odors and carbon dioxide from breath. The active ingredients in repellents make the person unattractive for feeding. Repellents do not kill mosquitoes. Repellents are effective only at short distances from the treated surface, so you may still see mosquitoes flying nearby.”

Women mosquitoes — you can’t live with them, you can’t kill them.

It would seem as long as you smell like something a mosquito won’t even touch — and don’t breathe — you’ve got the mosquito problem licked. However, that doesn’t sound like a terribly attractive solution.

The Karankawa Indians who once roamed these coastal environs dealt with mosquitoes in a rather organic manner, according to “The Handbook of Texas Online”.

“They often smeared their bodies with a mixture of dirt and alligator or shark grease to ward off mosquitoes.”

One would think that dirt along with alligator or shark grease would keep most anything away. Although, I wouldn’t take my chances with either alligators or sharks.

Almost everyone has to put up with some sort of unpleasantry no matter where they live. Hurricanes and mosquitoes are the two biggies here. I can keep the mosquitoes away. The hurricanes are another matter.

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