Skeeter Breeder

Pila with "wings"

Yeah, that’s what I am.  I’m a skeeter breeder.  I’ve tried to quit.  The government has given me free help.  I’ve done my best to work the ten-step program.  But here I am at 75, breeding skeeters.

Our pila, the cement cistern with it’s two “wings” for washing clothes and dishes, is my skeeter lab.  It’s on the patio where it can’t be seen from the street.  It’s partially roofed so helicopters with agents from the Ministry of Health can’t spot it from the sky.  There are buckets and basins on the “wings” and floor.

The pila abuts the shower stall with its dripping tin-like shower head that ensures the tile floor is always wet.  I know the ins and outs of skeeter breeding.

In El Salvador we have two breeds of flying insect with proboscis designed for puncturing human skin to swap spit for blood.  The larger of the two is called zancudo.  It is about the size of a small New Jersey mosquito, one who didn’t eat his spinach when his mother told him he’d never grow big like the other mosquitoes if he didn’t eat it.  The other is about the size of a gnat, those little white things that get into a New Jerseyan’s nose on a hot summer evening or drown in his sweat.  It’s called a mosquito, which means “little fly”.  The latter are the lesser of two evils.

I don’t know how zancudos live.  They don’t come into the house in a swarm to cover us with bites.  That would be no problem since we don’t have screens on our windows and doors and there is enough space between the roof/ceiling tiles to allow lizards and rats entrance.  They don’t seem to be dissuaded by Raid Doble Acción Mosquito and Fly Killer that “kills and keeps killing” at $4.71 an aerosol can.  The little pink plastic baggies of poison that the government puts in our pila periodically lose their potency before the next visit by the young people with their clipboards and official badges.

Zancudos don’t buzz like New Jersey mosquitoes…unless they’re on the hunt.  But when I go to the servicio at night, I can see them coming and going under the stall door.  I’ll swat at them, but they are so fast I can’t hit one or clap him to death.  The servicio is dry and the lid is kept closed.  Why are they there?

I will be awakened at the first buzz approaching my face.  I think they prefer Margarita, which shows they have good taste.  I immediately grab the can of Raid from the floor and open fire.  The buzzing stops and we are protected.  During a particularly active period, I will spray my arms and legs with Off.  I have found it very effective during my years in Central America.

I get up around six to feed Duke, clean up his pupú, and bring in the dishes that have been drying on the pila all night.  When I go to wash my hands, I have to dip a basin into the pila.  That’s when a cloud of zancudos arise from the basins and buckets.  I’ll run into the house for the Raid in hopes they’ll settle back to doing whatever they were doing and I can commit mass skeetercide.  I’ll spray everything that could possibly store moisture.  I’ll spray over the shower stall and the adjacent servicio stall.  I am merciless.  But to no avail.

That night while I’m sitting in my shorts at the computer, I’ll sense the presence of a stealth skeeter on my foot or leg.  Instinctively, I’ll reach down to swat and smear.  Too late!  The itch is growing as is the ever-so-tiny swelling.  Time for the Off.

When it’s bed time, I close the curtain on the window to the dining area/kitchen and the one hanging in the doorway to the living room.  I’ll check around the light for signs of flying life.  I’ll give the room the once over with Raid.  A moment or two later I’ll still see the little bichos orbiting the bulb.  A second volley before turning it off and we get into bed.  But we know that some time in the wee hours of the morning, we’ll hear the frightening buzz of the zancudo.


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