Insights & Experiences

Mosquitoes

Since Brazil boasts a tropical climate of which the only two “seasons” consist

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One of many billboards around Brasilia warning of Zika, Dengue, and Chikungunya

of hot and dry or hot and wet, it could have been expected that mosquitoes would be a constant nuisance. Yet, I never could have predicted the countless nights of interrupted slumber caused by these pesky, blood-thirsty creatures humming by my ears. I say this without exaggeration: I have never experienced so many sleepless nights until I came to Brazil! As a North American from the sticky, humid, East coast, I know how the summer season can be—full of mosquitoes biting us as we barbeque, spend time at the pool, or even just go outside to enjoy the weather—but, thanks to central heating and air conditioning, the mosquitoes tend to stay outside where nature intended them to be. Here in Brazil, unfortunately, I don’t have the most efficient air conditioner, so I tend to keep my windows ajar so that I get some ventilation, and of course, as a consequence, the mosquitoes find their way inside.

It wasn’t until about a month ago, when the WHO

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The “aparelho,” or device, used for keeping mosquitoes at bay

and the international media started blowing up with concern about the Zika virus, that I got concerned about this—before I had heard of the mosquito-borne illness, Dengue, but the mosquito bites never seemed dire until this moment. Now, in addition to the restless nights, I thought I might be in danger of this mysterious new ailment which was attacking the neurological growth of gestational babies. So, of course, I went to my students for their suggestions about what I could do to try to diminish the number of mosquitoes lodging in my apartment. They had many legitimate tips, including putting some mesh over the opening of my window, putting eucalyptus oil on my skin (it wards off the insects—who knew they dislike the smell? Unfortunately… So do I), burning citronella candles, etc. All of them were good ideas, and I was ready to take action until one day, one caring student of mine surprised me by not only making a logical suggestion to the problem, but he brought the item I needed. I never knew about this product, until I heard from him—a mosquito repellent oil that you plug into the wall made by the pest control brand, Raid®. I gratefully accepted this gift and have been using it since. So, although the mosquito- borne illnesses are very real,  with this plug-in, I have seen that there are relatively practical solutions to keeping the pests at bay—I must also admit that I take advantage of nature’s food chain in keeping the mosquito population down—what I mean is, I don’t kill the spiders who live in my apartment!

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