I grew up in Florida. It’s pretty much the mosquito capital given all the water and year round climate. Other places can be more intense, but for being bit all year long, it’s hard to beat the Sunshine State.
I got bit as a kid as much as others. Heck, we vacationed in a place that has a section of the city called Mosquito Lagoon. It’s some of the best Red Fishing outside of Louisiana.
We didn’t have air conditioning at first when I was young so the window were open. Ever been kept away by the whine of a buzzing biter in your ear. Yes, just like the dentist drill we all know the noise.
I began to notice in my 20’s though that others were getting bit more than me. There were also biting gnats (no see’ums) that were almost worse. You couldn’t see them. You could at least kill some mosquitos if you saw them in time.
I thought that maybe I got anti-bite serum from being bit so much. Then I remembered that as kids, we used to follow the mosquito truck on our bikes in the smoke breathing in what has to be DDT or worse. I figured I had natural immunity.
My dad didn’t get bit much either. As a joke, he said it was the meanness in him that kept them away.
It turns out that some people just get bit more and I’m not one of them.
SOME PEOPLE ARE MOSQUITO MAGNETS
As you may have noticed, mosquitoes don’t attack everyone equally. Scientists have known that the pests are drawn to people at varying rates, but they have struggled to explain what makes certain people “mosquito magnets” while others get off bite-free.
In a new paper published on October 18 in the journal Cell, researchers suggest that certain body odors are the deciding factor. Every person has a unique scent profile made up of different chemical compounds, and the researchers found that mosquitoes were most drawn to people whose skin produces high levels of carboxylic acids. Additionally, the researchers found that peoples’ attractiveness to mosquitoes remained steady over time, regardless of changes in diet or grooming habits.
“The question of why some people are more attractive to mosquitoes than others—that’s the question that everybody asks you,” says study co-author Leslie Vosshall, a neurobiologist and mosquito expert at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Rockefeller University. “My mother, my sister, people in the street, my colleagues—everybody wants to know.” That public interest is what drove Vosshall and her colleagues to design this study, she says.
Scientists have put forth some theories to explain why mosquitoes swarm to some of us more than others, including one idea that differences in blood type must be to blame. Evidence is weak for this link, however, Vosshall says. Over time, researchers began to coalesce around the theory that body odor must be a primary culprit in mosquito attraction. But scientists have been unable to confirm which specific odors mosquitoes prefer.
To answer this question, Vosshall and her colleagues gathered 64 participants and had them wear nylon stockings on their arms. After six hours, the nylons were imbued with each person’s unique smell. “Those nylons would not have a smell to me or, I think, to anyone really,” says Maria Elena De Obaldia, a senior scientist at the biotech company Kingdom Supercultures and lead author of this new study, which she conducted while at Rockefeller. Still, the stockings were certainly odorous enough to entice mosquitoes.
The researchers cut the nylons into pieces and placed two (from different participants) into a closed container housing female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Did they migrate to subject number one’s sample en masse or prefer the scent of subject number two’s? Or were both equally appealing? The researchers continued these head-to-head battles over several months, Vosshall says, collecting new samples from the participants as needed. When the tournament was over, the team had clear proof that some people were more attractive than others. Subject 33 had the dubious honor of being the biggest mosquito magnet; they had an attractiveness score “over 100 times greater” than that of the least attractive subjects, 19 and 28, the study authors wrote.
The researchers analyzed the subjects’ scent profiles to see what might account for this vast difference. They found a pattern: the most attractive subjects tended to produce greater levels of carboxylic acids from their skin while the least attractive subjects produced much less.
Carboxylic acids are commonplace organic compounds. Humans produce them in our sebum, which is the oily layer that coats our skin; there, the acids help to keep our skin moisturized and protected, Vosshall says. Humans release carboxylic acids at much higher levels than most animals, De Obaldia adds, though the amount varies from person to person. The new study had too few participants to say what personal characteristics make someone more likely to produce high levels of carboxylic acids—and there’s no easy way to test your own skin’s carboxylic acid levels outside of the laboratory, Vosshall says. (She muses, however, that sending people skin swabs in the mail could make for an interesting citizen science project in the future.)
“This property of being a mosquito magnet sticks with you for your whole life—which is either good news or bad news, depending on who you are,” Vosshall says.
“This study confirms, in a very careful way, that it is true that some people are more attractive [to mosquitoes] than others,” says Omar Akbari, a cell and molecular biologist at the University of California, San Diego, who was not involved with the study but whose recent work focuses on mosquitoes. He adds that the study’s identification of specific carboxylic acids as a key determinant of mosquito attraction is a new contribution to biologists’ understanding of the insects’ behavior. Akbari suspects that the results of this study—which focused on A. aegypti mosquitoes—are probably generalizable to other species of mosquitoes that also primarily prey on humans.
This is a story about my young son trying to catch the biggest fish in the pond.
Fathers do things for their children. They take them places and (try to) teach them things.
I like to fish and wanted my son to also like it so we could fish together. I made sure that we went catching instead of fishing. For those who have gone a entire day fishing without catching anything, you know what I mean.
I took him to the fishing show one year to show him around. It is a place where they sell things mostly to catch fishermen’s wallets.
We started the show by dropping quarters into a large fish tank. If the quarter glided through the water and into the shot glass at the bottom, you were a winner with the prize being your choice of worms. He won on the first try and was very excited about it.
I knew his attention span was limited so we went to the trout pond to fish. When I say pond, I mean a temporary pool filled with fish. They were mostly small trout with maybe 3 big boys in the pond (actually the big ones are female). It came complete with plastic palm trees in the middle for décor. You paid your $2 and could keep anything you caught in 5 minutes. The poles were a 4-foot stick with a short line and small hook baited with a mostly inedible piece of plastic half the size of a fingernail.
The odds are with the fish on this one. Especially when they have seen the same bait for 3 days and got fed every night.
My goal was for him to catch anything while I wanted to get enough of the small guys for dinner. I told him that any fish was a good fish.
HUNTING MOBY DICK
Never the small dreamer, he spotted the biggest fish in the pool and said he was going after it. I feared he would be disappointed as everyone threw a line at it, but I knew I could just take him through the line again and tell him to go for something catchable.
I had landed about 3 of the small fish and was well on the way to having dinner by half the time allotted. He kept trying for the big fish (nicknamed Moby Dick).
As time was counting down and I had caught enough for dinner, I heard a huge splash beside me. I looked over and sure enough, my son had hooked Moby.
My new fear was that he would be crushed if the fish spit the hook. The hooks they provided were tiny and easy for the fish get off the line. I saw it happen to every kid before us. If you didn’t get one to the side in less than 15 seconds, it was pretty much over.
This fish was almost too strong for the small stick and line we were given. Over a minute into the fight, it was still on and I knew the odds were against us.
THE FIRST CHANCE TO LOSE THE FISH
Things took a turn for the worse as his fish got wrapped around one of the plastic palm trees. In my mind, I was already preparing to console him for his loss.
I knew I had to try something. After all, I was his Dad so I reached into the tank and grabbed the palm tree. The pond monitors weren’t happy with me but it was my son.
Anyone who ever had a fish on knows that if you get slack in the line, the fish is as good as gone once the line goes taut and the sudden tension pulls the hook out of the fish’s mouth.
To my surprise, Moby stayed on despite the tree incident and he was well past 2 minutes into the fight. Time was now over for that fishing session, but since he had one on we were allowed to finish. We had an audience as everyone waiting to fish and those who just finished could see that he had a good one on.
I decided that if by chance I could get my hands on this fish that I was willing to do anything to get it for my son. I didn’t want him to be disappointed after overcoming virtually everything that could go wrong, just to lose it at the last second. This wasn’t going to be easy, as anyone who has handled a trout knows they have a coating of slime. They are as slippery as greased ice. Landing them is usually done with a net, which we weren’t allowed to use.
PANIC AT THE MOMENT OF TRUTH
I thought nothing more could go wrong, but to my horror I could see that it was foul hooked (hooked on the body rather than the mouth). My sense of the odds of landing Moby were next to nothing now.
After what seemed like a million circles in the pond, Moby came within my reach and I stuck my hand under the fish and threw it out of the pond in one swoop.
On that day, he had landed the biggest fish in the pond, a Dad was proud and a small boy became a fisherman.
Here is a picture later in life of fishing together. He learned well
The manager of a megastore came to check on his new salesman. “How many customers did you serve today?” the manager asked.
“One,” replied the new guy.
“Only one?” said the boss. “How much was the sale?”
The salesman answered, “$58,334.”
Flabbergasted, the manager asked him to explain.
“First I sold a man a fishhook,” the salesman said. “Then I sold him a rod and a reel. Then I asked where he was planning to fish, and he said down by the coast. So I suggested he’d need a boat – he bought that 20-foot runabout. When he said his Volkswagen might not be able to pull it, I took him to the automotive department and sold him a big SUV.”
The amazed boss asked, “You sold all that to a guy who came in for a fishhook?”
“No,” the new salesman replied. “He actually came in for a bottle of aspirin for his wife’s migraine. I told him, “Your weekend’s shot. You should probably go fishing.”
1. Safely Unclog A Drain
A great natural solution for unclogging the drain! Just drop four Alka-Seltzer tablets down the drain, followed by a cup of white vinegar and allow to stand for about ten minutes. Flush with a pot of boiling water. Doing this on a regular basis can help keep that drain clear. This also works to deodorize the drain.
2. Clean a Toilet In A Hurry
Drop two tablets in the toilet, wait 20 minutes for the citric acid to loosen the grime, scrub and flush. The bowl will be clean, shiny, and deodorized. Handy for a quick clean in case of uninvited, unannounced, surprise guests.
3. An All-Purpose Cleaner
Alka Seltzer can also be a good all around cleaner. Plop three tablets into 8 ounces of warm water. Once the fizzing stops, dip a sponge in the water (or you could fill a spray bottle) and wipe down counters, tiles and tubs. You can even place some in your sink and use as mop water. Just add five tablets to one half gallon of water.
4. Soothe Insect Bites
Drop two tablets in warm water, then soak a cotton ball in the solution. Place on the bite for 30 minutes for relief from the insect bites.
5. Catch a Fish
Fish love bubbles. Break a tablet in half and throw it out near your fishing line, or put a tablet inside your tube jig and cast off. The fish won’t be able to resist the stream of bubbles.
6. Remove Burnt On Food From Bakeware
Drop 5 tablets into a sink full of hot water and let your cookware soak for an hour or so. The burnt food will come off with ease.
7. Whiten and Brighten Your Laundry
To get rid of dingy yellow color on white cotton, soak your whites in a solution of a gallon of warm water and two Alka Seltzer tablets. Then hang your whites in the sun to dry to get rid of any lingering stains.
8. Deodorize the Fridge
For a clean, fresh smelling refrigerator, drop an Alka-Seltzer tablet in a cup of water and leave it in the refrigerator for a half hour. If there is still a smell in the refrigerator, then wash down the inside of the refrigerator with another Alka-Seltzer tablet in water.
9. Clean a Glass Jar, Flower Vase or Thermos
For those difficult to clean vessels with narrow-necks, and hard to reach places, drop two Alka-Seltzer tablets in, add hot water and swish it around until the tablets are dissolved and let it sit for an hour. Rinse, and the glass jar, vase or Thermos will be as clean as new.
10. Restore Stained Plastic Containers
Got spaghetti sauce stains on your plastic containers? Simply fill your container with warm to hot water and depending on the size drop 1-2 tablets into the water. Let sit for 30 minutes and the stains will disappear before your eyes.
11. Polish Your Jewelry
Drop two tablets in a bowl of warm water. Let your jewelry soak for about 20 minutes. It will look new again! (Note: This is not safe for pearls or opals.)
12. Build Rockets For Kids
Entertain little ones by heading outside with an empty film canister, filled halfway with warm water. Drop in half a tablet, snap on the lid and place the canister upside down on the sidewalk or driveway. Take a step back and watch your rocket blast off!
13. Clean Your Coffeemaker
Fill the water chamber of the coffeemaker and then drop in three tablets. When the Alka-Seltzer has dissolved, put the coffeemaker through a brew cycle. This will clean out all the internal components. Run through another plain water cycle before using the machine again for coffee.
14. Help For Nicotine Addiction
If you’re trying to quit smoking Alka-Seltzer can help. Take two tablets three times a day to relieve nicotine withdrawal symptoms and curb cravings.
15. Cure Urinary Tract Infections
Showing signs of a urinary infection? Take two tablets in a glass of water as soon as you notice symptoms. Results are almost immediate. Keep in mind that Aspirin is a main ingredient in Alka-Seltzer so those with Aspirin allergies shouldn’t use it.
16. Clean and Deodorize A Cooler
After an outing or trip, add about 1 inch of water to the bottom of your cooler, drop 4 tablets in, and let sit for an hour. After an hour, rinse and dry. All smells will be gone and it will be clean and ready for its next use.
17. Clean Dentures
Drop an Alka-Seltzer tablet into a glass of warm water, and then drop your dentures into the glass for about ten minutes. The citric acid and carbonation will remove the toughest stains from your dentures and other prosthetic dental work. This is an excellent substitute for more expensive denture cleanser products.