COLUMN: A ‘refreshing’ attempt at bug control

At the front of my house is a shady little patch of grass that, due to size and relative accessibility, is too difficult to mow with the lawn tractor. Thus when the area needs trimming I drag out the old electric mower, connect the cord to the garage and, after eliminating the various dog deposits, make it look ship-shape again.

COLUMN: A 'refreshing' attempt at bug control

At the front of my house is a shady little patch of grass that, due to size and relative accessibility, is too difficult to mow with the lawn tractor. Thus when the area needs trimming I drag out the old electric mower, connect the cord to the garage and, after eliminating the various dog deposits, make it look ship-shape again.

Yesterday was one of those days but, thanks to the current invasion of mosquitoes, the 10-minute task in the shady, wind-blocked garden was more than aggravating. As I pulled the little mower back and forth, concentrating primarily on swatting at the aerial annoyances, I heard a distinctive clunk interrupt the normal whir of the blades.

Dog doo isn’t that hard and, familiar with running over things, my mind exceeded my speed of sight. I had run over the power cord, though the mower was still operating. Sticking forth from the slightly mangled cable was a green wire – I’d only slashed the ground connection. Dangerous perhaps, but it still allowed me to finish the grass cutting before unplugging and proceeding with a repair.

Remediation of the wire took place in the garage . . . it was out of the sun and thus cooler, and that’s where my tools were.

However, it was also where the mosquitoes chose to relocate.

Frustration, accompanied by rather vociferous exhortations of the type not found in newspapers, accompanied the repair as the little blighters tried to penetrate face and hands that were engaged in concentrating on cutting the wire, carefully removing the insulation and reattaching the receptacle.

Despite the annoyance, the damaged portion was cut off, dropped to the floor, the plug-in bit removed, the cut end retrieved between swats at the biting bugs and, with careful trimming and taping and screwing, the part was reattached … to the six foot long piece of discarded and damaged cord.

At that point of realization, of course, the volume level of my annoyance escalated to the point that small children within three kilometers were probably rushed into the house by their mothers.

At any rate, with small bumps from the bites appearing on wrists and face, the cord was eventually rehabilitated, and with it came the resolve to tackle the bugs.

I’d recalled an email from a friend that described a cure to mosquito invasions – spray them with Listerine.

Probably a myth but what the ‘hey’ . . . I was at the point of trying anything, aside from generous applications of DEET. So off to Walmart for a bottle of the mouthwash, with a stop at the adjacent Dollar Store for a couple of cheapo sprayers.

I arrived home with my prizes, only to have the maintainer of practicality in my home scoff, check out “snopes.com”, and say “see, even this says using that stuff is nonsense!”

You know what they say about a fool and his money . . . but I had the ingredients and thought I’d at least give it a try.

So, armed with Listerine-filled spray bottle and a can of cold beer, I settled down on the deck to await my, and the mosquitoes, fate.

Sure enough after a few minutes, along came a hummer followed shortly by a refreshing mist. The ‘mozzie’ plummeted to the deck, down but not dead.

After three more attacks, I determined that though the spray doesn’t appear to kill them, with all the alcohol contained in the mouth wash they are probably dead drunk, but with decidedly ‘fresh breath’, before they hit the floor.

And after finishing another can of beer, it was also suggested that I could use the spray on myself.

As for this year’s abundance of mosquitoes, aside from the weather, I believe it is in direct correlation to the dramatic drop in the number of swallows. A year or two ago I noted a decline in the winged bug-catchers, and this year it is significant. Instead of hundreds of them darting and swooping over the lawn and fields there are now only a few around. Previously I’ve had 20 or so nests in the barn, this year only three.

That does not portent well for the future of natural control of bug invasions, or our environment, though it might do wonders for purveyors of mouthwash and myths.

markrushton@abbynews.com