Wednesday, August 10, 2011


I was pouting here because of the burns on my forehead. I was frying eggs when a big hunk of greasy egg shot out of the pan and stuck to my skin. I thought the pout was appropriate for today's post.

I currently have a fruit fly problem. I blame all the fruit and that bloody juicer. I used to be so bug tolerant, but after this last year in Madagascar, I may have used up all my insect friendly credits. There was Evil Eric, the horrible flies (house flies AND vampire flies), the sweat bees (one of which flew up into my maxillary sinus), and the super scary neurotoxic centipedes, among many many others. NONE, however, even compared to the torment inflicted by the mosquitoes...

I've worked in lots of different forest types and you'd think that wet forests would be much worse that dry forests for insects with flagellated reproduction, right? Well, I did. And I was wrong. Tsimanampetsotsa was in the second full year of a drought when I arrived. And, thankfully for many of the people and wildlife, that drought ended. With the onset of the rains, the mosquitoes went f*&#ing bonkers (that's right, I dropped a B*bomb).

I'm not sure if it was the constant nature of the mosquito attacks OR the sheer number of individuals that was so traumatic. Maybe both. So, I'd wake up in the morning (or night, depending on the lemurs' schedule) to the buzzing sound. The mosquitoes would and have been swarming the outside of my tent since I got in it the night before. They sense CO2, and thus have been creepily sniffing me all night. Sick bastards. I then have to get out of my tent to go to the bathroom. Since I previously outlined the horrors of having swarms of mosquitoes attacking the areas that your bathing suit covers, I won't go there again. Let me just remind you that it is in fact horrible.

After the bathroom comes trying to eat without ingesting too many mosquitoes, or getting too many bites, and heading out into the forest. Though it gets to be over 50 degrees C many days, I wear full pants, an undershirt, a button down long sleeved shirt, two pairs of socks on my hands, and a full mesh bug hood. It the worst of the mosquito times, I also affixed panty-liners to the insides of my clothes in the places where I frequently got bit. All of this and some days I still received over 200 mosquito bites. Recall that mosquitoes carry lovely diseases such as Elephantiasis, West Nile, Malaria, DENGUE FEVER, etc., and I didn't have a car or access to medical care.

So they swarmed and they bit all day and all night. If I walked past a particularly dense mosquito area, I would come out with thousands on me. A literal grey cloud. I would run, hit myself with branches, practically stop-drop-and-roll, all to be rid of the first half of them. The second half were for keepsies, like it or not. And they buzzed that horrible buzz constantly. It would have been ok at night just to hear them outside the tent, but inevitably a few would come in with me and then I could never be sure if the buzzing was actually in my ear or just next to my ear. And I reacted to bites like no one else. Huge red swollen firey welts from every bite. Yuck.

I tried very hard to do some night-time work during mosquito hell. I'd get all suited up, which at night included an extra pair of pants and an extra shirt, but it was all in vain. The mosquitoes got to a density such that I couldn't keep them out of my bug hood, and then I couldn't work. Try writing and watch animals with say 30 mosquitoes flying up your nose, in your mouth and on your EYES? Not cool. SO the next night, I got pretty clever and decided to take a mosquito net into the forest. I was feeling pretty smug too, like 'phh, no mosquitoes are going to keep me away.'

Yeah. Uh, the only thing worse than being out in millions of mosquitoes, is being trapped in a small cloth cave with thousands of them. I figured if I could get into the net quickly and kill any that came in with me, I'd be good to go. Wrong. Plus, I couldn't see through the net anyhow. SO, the night after that, I decided to wear as many layers as possible and topped them all off with my assistant Meghan's full-body bug suit ((a) thank goodness for her over protective mother, which, (b) reminds me that "fungal infections are no fun"). It was nearly 35 degrees at 10pm, and I headed out in my 4-layer deep gear, feeling yet again, pretty smug. 'Stupid mosquitoes think they beat me, when they didn't', I thought.

OK. Uh, the only thing worse than being out with millions of mosquitoes, or being trapped in a small cloth cave with thousands of mosquitoes, is being trapped in a smaller cloth cave with hundreds of them. They got through the bug suit and perforated my every layer in a matter of minutes. And then I couldn't get rid of them. All alone in the forest, in a near state of panic, and crawling with mosquitoes. And too many of them on my face to write or concentrate on lemurs. I did have going back to camp and going pee to look forward to. Sniff sniff.

And that is why I am about to Raid my entire house to be rid of fruit flies. Good times, my friends. Good times.

Happy Wednesday!


  1. The fruit flies do come in hoards because of the juicer. YOu have to be vigilant and scrape out all the pulp immediately and then, if you compost, put it outside in the compost bucket IMMEDIATELY. If no compost, get some kind of bucked with a lid and throw the pulp into that and cover it up. Do you have a porch or balcony? Put the pulp and bucket there. This worked for me with the juicer problems and I have very few Drosophila in my house.

  2. Does this mean that you are not going back to Madagascar? Sounds like a pretty awful situation. Next time rub your entire body with cantaloupe skin, after eating a few slices.Hopefully they will leave you alone,and you can focus your work. Guys and Gals like you I really admire. Like the pout, and the story, very entertaining.

  3. Lisa- I do clean out my juicer right away, but can't ever seem to fit all my fruit in the fridge, so there is inevitably apples or something on the counter. I have one of those mesh things to place over fruit, but the flies are still here!

    Mysterious "Anonymous"- Oh no, I will go back to Madagascar. Next time though, I will head to the beach if I ever see mosquitoes like that again. Cantaloupe, hey? There is no fresh food where I work, but its interesting.

  4. Sand flies are almost as maddening as mosquitos. They don't leave bites per se put make you itch like crazy and then drive you crazy! Ahh! They are plentiful in the islands of Bocas.