Good morning, mosquitoes. You make us murderous. And scared.
Do not underestimate these pesky bugs. We’ve tried lots of different tactics to keep mosquitoes at bay. One of the great things we have here are screens, which we didn’t have when we were in La Paz. I tried to take a photo of the cloud of ~20 mosquitoes hovering on the other side of our screen door, but they’re too small and my camera isn’t good enough. Just trust me: they’re there.
The mosquito population has increased dramatically in the time we’ve been here in Sámara, due to the increasing amount of rain we’re getting as rainy season picks up. First thing in the morning and at dusk, the mosquitoes are especially active. And during the day, the (black and white-striped) aedes mosquito is out and biting. And those are the mofos that carry diseases like dengue fever. No thank you.
In fact, mosquitoes are one of the world’s deadliest creatures, carrying diseases from malaria to yellow fever to West Nile virus. Don’t believe me? Check out this infographic from Bill Gates’s blog:
One of our Spanish teachers told us he’s had dengue fever three times in the past seven years or so. He said that here in Sámara, there aren’t as many cases, and it’s usually locals who get it. (Although, it could be that travelers are getting it, but the symptoms don’t show up until they get home.) But he said travelers are usually more vigilant about wearing repellent, and repellent is expensive.
It’s true: a bottle of OFF! spray with 25 percent DEET is around US$10. We found a local brand with 20 percent DEET, but in a smaller bottle, that was around US$6. If you’re here for a month, one person can get by on one bottle. But if you live here and are outside a lot, the cost adds up.
And it’s hard to be vigilant 24/7. We have a beautiful, shaded terrace to sit on. It’s sad to be sitting inside, but after sitting out there for five minutes, no amount of repellent can help you. Here’s what we’ve found helps us:
- We’re serious about the DEET. We’ve used other “natural” repellents and they’re pointless. We prefer a higher concentration (at least 20 percent) so we don’t have to reapply every hour. If you can find a lotion, it provides better coverage.
- Stay indoors during prime mosquito hours. We avoid going outside between 6-7am and 5-6pm if we can.
- Don’t be afraid to be a little crazy. Our bungalow has a once-a-week cleaning service where a gal (this is her college job — she’s studying to be a social worker) replaces the sheets and towels. People here are accustomed to not having screens, so she leaves the screen doors open while she’s working, letting some mosquitoes in. The normal Tamara wouldn’t want to impose and wouldn’t say anything. But the mosquito-crazy Tamara specifically asks, “Por favor, puede dejar la puerta cerrada? Los mosquitos me pican mucho,” with a friendly smile.
Anyhow, as much as we love it here, we’re looking forward to going someplace with fewer mosquitoes. Our next stop, Monteverde, is higher altitude and cooler, so it’s harder for mosquitoes to survive there. Thank goodness.