Mosquito Magnet by
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Prompted By Fireworks

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As a small child, I disliked crowds and their accompanying noise and stimulation, along with the pops and flashes of fireworks. (Surprise, I still do.) So, the fireworks celebration on July 4 was not one of my favorite events, but each year, I went to Verona Park (in New Jersey), and tolerated the bands, bunting, and booms. Why? It had to do with a love affair–the love that mosquitoes have with my body.

Every 4th of July I spent in New Jersey I became exceptionally popular. This one time a year, everyone wanted me to be part of their group ...

Mosquitoes don’t like me–they love me. My former husband thought I was exaggerating until the day he saw several mosquitoes chase me down the block as fast as I could run. Over the years I have tried every type of repellent, from citronella to Skin So Soft, to Off, with limited success. The only substance that ever really worked was a spray that Mexican guides used on me at the Mayan ruins at Tulum, the contents of which were covered by a white sheet of paper wrapped around the can. I assume that was DDT. So now I rely on a special permethrin-infused shirt and bandana when I go to places where mosquitoes threaten.

The first time I remember going to the fireworks at Verona Park, I must have been four or five, and my parents guided me among the crowds. As the sun set and the evening darkened, a few mosquitoes buzzed near me, and then more, ignoring everyone else. We tried burning punks, which did nothing, as I was surrounded by clouds of mosquitoes. A woman on an adjoining blanket approached my parents and said, “Excuse me, can we borrow your little girl? Looks like we wouldn’t have any trouble with mosquitoes if she sat with us.”

Every 4th of July I spent in New Jersey, I became exceptionally popular. This one time a year, everyone wanted me to be part of their group, which was a treat for an introverted child. So, I suffered through the crowds and eventually appreciated the color and artistry of the fireworks, although I could do without the bands and bunting–and of course the mosquitoes. Once I moved to northern California, I found that mosquitoes were not an issue, although on July 4 the temperature could be chilly and the sky covered with fog. By the time this story goes live, I might have driven my car a few blocks to get a glimpse of the fireworks from the Great America amusement park, or more likely I might have tuned the TV to the celebration in New York or DC, where the mosquitoes would love me.

Profile photo of Marian Marian
I have recently retired from a marketing and technical writing and editing career and am thoroughly enjoying writing for myself and others.


Comments

  1. Laurie Levy says:

    Marian, I have never understood that mosquito thing. My husband, one of my daughters, and one of her daughters are also magnets. Perhaps it’s hereditary? Fireworks in the dark, near the water, are always accompanied by massive bites for them. Hope, if you ventured out this year, the cool temps kept you relatively bite-free. We have had so much rain in Chicago that I fear a tough July and August for my mosquito magnets.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    It’s chemistry. I, too, am a mosquito magnet. They love me and I can actually feel them alight on my skin just before the bite (if I’m quick). The itching drives me crazy, so I know just how you feel. It has been an exceptionally rainy spring here, so the mosquitos are out in full bloom. I haven’t been too bothered yet, but I totally understand why you prefer watching on TV.

  3. Okay, I may actually have some science to add. When I lived in suburban Chicago we had a plague of mosquitos, and I bought a contraption called a Mosquito Magnet (sic). It was a trap that used a propane system to generate a plume of carbon dioxide. The CO2 is an attractant to mosquitos. (Actually the MM uses a secondary aromatic attractant too, but the CO2 is the real workhorse). Mosquitos are drawn by the plume and follow it into a mesh trap, where they expire. So, Marian, perhaps you tended to hyperventilate a bit so thus increased your CO2 output.

    • Marian says:

      Thanks for the science, Tom. I have heard about the mosquitoes’ attraction to CO2 but not the details of the trap. It would be interesting to find out if different people exhale different concentrations of CO2. Now that my science writer’s curiosity is activated, maybe I’ll go onto the PubMed database and see if anyone has studied this!

  4. Suzy says:

    Marian, I love your story, but I hate the picture. :-0 My youngest daughter is a mosquito magnet too, and I always joke that I don’t need to worry about repellent as long as I’m with her. I love that total strangers wanted to borrow you at Verona Park so that they would not get bitten. We never had anyone ask to borrow Molly, so maybe your magnetism is more apparent than hers. I will definitely send your story to her so she can see that she is not the only one with this affliction.

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