It’s the worst year of mosquitos I’ve ever experienced, or so says my memory. We have a bias toward recent events being more dramatic than “anything before.” This is at odds with with our bias for nostalgia, but the swarm of mosquitos here in Michigan easily overwhelms my apacolyptic stories of mosquito swarms from years gone by.
I only venture into our backyard wearing a mesh hood, long sleeves and pants. This is in ninety-degree weather. I gladly take the misery of heat rather than the misery of mosquito bites and the threat of some pain-in-the-ass disease.
Just yesterday, I took the dogs outside and mosquitos attacked the only exposed flesh I offer: neck, face and ears. With one hand I squished a bug in my eye while the other hand swatted my ear. It was like being in a drunken barfight with myself.
Today I let the dogs outside and then clapped to get their attention, killing several mosquitos between my palms without even trying. As I encouraged the dogs to do their business quickly so we can go back inside, I was reminded of a bad year for mosquitos in my youth.
Bad year for mosquitos, but a good year for toxic exposure to chemicals
I grew up in Cleveland. At some point in the early 1970s — let’s say 1974 — there was a mosquito outbreak that had northern Ohio annoyed and worried. I don’t remember if there was a medical scare but I’m pretty sure that the diseases currently spread by mosquitos (Dengue, Zika, West Nile and the various encephalitises) weren’t a factor back then. I don’t even think you could catch Malaria here in the states. Mostly, I think people were tired of being bitten by mosquitos.
How tired were we? The Cuyahoga County Health Department sprayed down the entire county. In the evening, trucks drove through the city park behind our house and hosed down the entire place. That happened in all the suburbs and in the city.
Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird. It’s a plane.
A DC-3 was deployed to get everything the trucks couldn’t reach. It flew low overhead, back and forth, night after night, dispensing an aerosol spray of something toxic to mosquitos? Was it toxic to anything else? Probably. I think I mentioned this was around 1974.
Because my father had been a pilot, our house was in tune to the deployment of aircraft. So, when that DC-3 came rumbling overhead, we scrambled outside to watch.
I remember standing on the driveway at dusk, looking up as the big plane passed by. We couldn’t see the aerosol, but we were glad it was there. The mosquitos were annoying. We were tired of dealing with them.
We welcomed the toxic spray.
For The Record
I tried to fact check this story but I can’t find any references to it happening. For the record, I attempted three different Google searches and then gave up. That seems like plenty. So did it happen?
I know we had a mosquito scare back then in Cleveland. I know I stood outside gazing up at a DC-3. Are those two memories connected?
I don’t know for sure. As the say at the Moth, this story is true so far as I remember it.
Did the chemicals sprayed all across Cleveland possibly impact my cognitive abilities, including memory? Most likely, yes.