It was curious to me that a creature that previously took little interest in me would suddenly swarm to me like my blood was manna. I’d suspected, and read, that mosquitoes are partial to particular blood. And, based on my experience, whatever the magic ingredient, my lifejuice lacked it. So, it was striking to me that I was attacked the other afternoon by these ankle (and etc.) biters. So much so that I posted about it to see if others concurred that Culicidae (yes, I looked it up) dinner parties are on the rise in Zone 7b. Reveler Ralph, a frequent commenter (thank you, btw!) noted that his experience may be skewed from the fact that he gardens primarily on a deck. He nonetheless offered several helpful pieces of advice, including throwing off mosquitoes’ scent trackers (which is what traditional OTC products are supposed to do) by using chemical-free natural soaps made of lemon or spearmint (or just rub spearmint right on the skin and wear it under your hat — an excellent idea, which puts mint on the list for next year’s garden). Once bitten, twice iodine, according to our fellow reveler. (Note to self: pull iodine out of the emergency kit in the basement; the emergency has arrived). Check out more detailed suggestions in the comments to “The Perils of Gardening.”
As it turns out, however, I am no more attractive to skeetos than I was to various 7th grade crushes when I sported a back brace, glasses and an overbite. I am fairly certain of this because, after getting all worked up and posting on the bevy of bites across my lower body, I braved the elements again to finish staking the plethora of tomato plants out back (the story of how my garden became a tomato refuge described in “The Perils of Overgardening”). The next thing I knew, I was feeling the strange itchiness that accompanied the first attack. (I had chalked this up to the sheer number of bites I had, but apparently it was indicative of something more). Oddly, this sensation seemed to come from the inside out, like I could feel it traveling just beneath the surface of my skin. This time, I was wearing a long-sleeved shirt, full pants, and rubber gloves to avoid a repeat of the earlier assault. Suddenly, it struck me. I ran inside and looked at my face to see the same welts as before. This time, they were encircled with a ruddy reddish shadiness to the skin around them, and spotted my forehead, chin and neck. They behaved the same way the earlier “bites” did: very pronounced at first and gradually fading in color and sensation until they were barely noticeable at all. I had assumed this rapid disappearance was the result of my swift diligence with a plantain leaf.
Checking out my new war wounds in the mirror, I recalled the time I was 9 and we were painting a shed in the woods behind my house. At some point, my body became fully covered with hives. A bottle of calamine lotion later, and I was fine. I do not know why I didn’t recognize that feeling sooner. It is a distinct feeling, and I was beginning to get it while I was in the garden. Like there was the presence near of something that doesn’t mesh so well your aura. Maybe the 20 (or so) year gap in time made me forget what an allergic reaction feels like. But I was acutely reminded last night.
Now, I suppose I should get to work on figuring out what was the cause of my body’s dramatic response to this presence. A quick Google search and a scan of the corner of the garden I was working in suggests it may be the milkweed. It’s always possible, but unlikely, it’s those weedy morning glories I fight back nearly daily. (Unlikely because we’ve been battling since my occupancy here began). I have a creeping suspicion it’s a tomato plant, but I dearly sincerely hope not. Once again, the perils of overgardening are upon us…