Korean Bloodsuckers!

I was dreaming about writing this when I heard that all too familiar high-pitched whizzing buzz pass over my ear. I suppose it was an advantage that I got three more mosquito bites after the first one that had woken me from the itching. The extra bites really reminded me of the wonderful times I have had been woken repeatedly in the middle of the night courtesy of a flock of mosquitoes residing in my bedroom.

Yes, summer isn’t summer in Korea until you get your first bite at 2am and spend the next forty-five minutes chasing the tiny black vampire around the bedroom with whatever suitable implement comes to hand. Coming from Ireland, we have nothing like mosquitoes, in fact I didn’t even realise that there were ants in Ireland until last year. Korea, is not so lucky.

The mosquitoes in the summer are a proper pain in the arse; they are the spawn of Satan, the reincarnation of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and every other scumbag I’ve ever felt like slapping for pissing me off – well maybe not every one, but most of them.

There is nothing more discomforting than when you hear that buzz over your ear as you lie half asleep, and there’s no surer way of making you sit bolt upright in bed. Good luck finding the perpetrator too! And even when you eventually kill one and its full of blood, you might think it’s nice to know you got revenge, but the mosquito will have the last laugh as you’re stuck scratching away for the next two days. Sometimes, scratching the bite offers so much satisfaction that it gets infected, which is when the real fun begins. My maroon polka-dotted walls are a testament to many sleepless nights hunting mosquitoes where I was either woken by that buzz in my ear or an uncontrollable itch where I was bitten.

Mosquitoes, from my experience, tend to focus their attention on the parts of the body that cause the most irritation when bitten, notably areas where skin is thinner and there is less body fat. Areas in which they are particularly fond of my body include my ankles, wrists, fingers, calves, shins and forearms, and in particular the whiter soft tissue on the inside of my forearms.

I can see why. When I go to eat, say a whole chicken, the best bits are the soft brown meaty bits of the legs and the wings, and then I like really dig inside the bones and pull out the tiny tender bits stuck in between the bones and cartilage – I definitely don’t spend much time on the breast meat.  Mosquitoes are the same. I am pretty sure that in my whole life I have never gotten a mosquito bite on my belly, chest, back or arse.

Don’t think that you will defeat these evil-doers. The oldest known mosquito fossil is around 80-90 million years old, and they are known to have existed earlier. Considering the size of the insect, the fact that a mosquito fossil was found is evidence enough that these could have been around much longer. Still 80 million years is a long time. The only two animals that I could find that were older were crocodiles and cockroaches.

In fact, the mosquito’s dispersal around the world and its adaptability is proof of the insects resilience. Known for surviving or hibernating through sub-zero temperatures (as is the case in Korea), and travelling around the world courtesy of delivery trucks, cars, and ocean borne garbage such as plant debris and car tires, mosquitoes are champions of survival and adaption.  In fact, mosquitoes are so important that they have been linked to the survival of ecosystems and population control, malaria being the most brutal example of this. Fortunately, malaria is not present in Korea.

The mosquito’s survival is built around blood. I found out that only the female mosquito needs blood – the male mostly relies on nectar for survival, but the female cannot produce eggs without certain proteins obtained from blood. So, their survival is intrinsically linked with the consumption of blood, so don’t go hoping that someday mosquitoes might just go vegan or something. They won’t because that would be stupid.

Every summer, myself and herself take it in shifts to hunt the little bastards down in the middle of the night. In terms of preventions and cures, I reckon we’ve tried everything that Daiso and Family Mart have to offer for keeping them at bay.

For starters, there are mosquito coils (which stink) and the blue things that you have to put onto a little electric pad – god knows what they’re called. Anyway, they are both useless. This is especially the case if you live in a crappy ground floor apartment that backs onto an alley and has more holes in the mosquito screens than I’ve had hangovers. Maybe in brand new Remian mansions they work fine, but for us humble plebs they offer little comfort.

So where should you turn to? Well the most effective ways of dealing with the scourge of summer are simple but effective. Firstly, you need something designed for flattening the spawn of Satan. Recently we bought some fly swatters which we’ve found very appropriate. Not only can you strike with speed, they also are aesthetically appropriate in the shape of very cute teddy bear heads (flat of course).  However, I have noticed a major flaw in relying on these in times of need; I can never find them, such was the case last night.

Failing this, you will never be far from a suitable weapon – I am a fan of a good book. Now, not any book will do. It must have a relatively hard cover and be relatively heavy. The reason for this is that the advantage of speed that a fly swatter has is lost with the cumbersome book, but with a properly timed and accurately aimed shot the weight and strength of the book with deal any predator of your skin the right treatment. Magazines, ELT textbooks, and paper-backs all seem to lack the appropriate welly. Although, maybe I’m directing my shots poorly.

The single most effective treatment to stop mosquitoes is prevention. It is a simple method, but when done right you will sleep well, you will have no awkward bites to scratch and the maroon blood patches previously mentioned will not exist.  A mosquito net will solve all your worries. Of course, the problem with these is that they’re a pain in the arse to climb out of bed from for a piss in the middle of the night.

Or, you could move to a country with no mosquitoes.

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4 thoughts on “Korean Bloodsuckers!

  1. Hey, I really enjoyed the reading. It was a very well humored way of putting up the matter. I would like to give my 1 cent here: my experience from Brazil tells me that if you are able to cool down the room to approx. 20 degrees C, the mosquitoes would lower their activity and leave you alone. Besides, you will not sweat, which is also attractive to them, and unconfortable to you. But I cannot affirm that this will work in a tempered climate…maybe if you could go colder. The window nets are also working fine for us here in Geoje. Cheers, Marcelo.

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    • Thanks for the advice Marcelo – we now live in a new apartment which is a bit higher up than the ground floor and things are looking up. It’s cooler anyway and it definitely has less mosquittos. One thing that I didn’t mention in this post is the worst is yet to come. In September and October when it starts to get colder the mosquittos like to come inside more!!! Last year we still had our net up in November even though it was 5 degrees centrigrade outside. They are even hungrier at this time as the are, I assume, desperate to feed and lay eggs before they die.

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  2. South korea does actually have a low risk of malaria in the northern province of Gyeongi, and another province I can’t remember at this moment. At least that is what I was told. I was turned away from donating blood last year because of my visit there.

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