Welcome to the May edition of Territories, the monthly newsletter from Inhabit. This time around, we’ve got some springtime advice for the gardeners out there and reflections on the state of the world from a variety of friends, comrades, and worldwide partisans.
Why Did God Make Mosquitoes?
Thanks to Alex for writing to us with this seasonal tip!
Individuals in community gardens may each have their own mission that led them to their plot, but once they spend some time gardening in the rainy season everyone is on a mission to kill mosquitoes. Let’s get organized and shift the balance of the ecosystem to reduce mosquitoes.
The first step to having an effect on an organism is to understand its lifecycle. The life of the mosquito starts in stagnant, pooling water where larvae feed on organic matter and grow into adults in as little as five days. Adult males and females feed on nectar and drink water on calm days to sustain themselves. Male mosquitoes typically only live for about a week, but females can live for many months. Females can also travel up to ten miles during their lifetime.
Males are attracted to the tone of female wing-beating at 484 Hz and allow females to produce a raft of about 200 eggs three days after mating. Females can lay several times over the season but males only mate once. Females provide nutrition for their eggs through a blood meal from various warm-blooded creatures that they find via heat signatures, carbon dioxide, and other trace emissions. (Mosquitoes are not attracted to lights.) Once winter hits, females either lay eggs on moist ground or vessels that could supply puddles in spring, or she retreats to protected areas to hibernate.
On a large scale, the best way to reduce mosquitoes is to fix the root of the problem. This means getting the entire community on track to reduce unnecessary pools of water. Costa Rica, for instance, has seen united community action to prevent mosquitoes in order to reduce Dengue fever. The country was able to drastically reduce mosquito populations and the occurrence of Dengue by regularly disposing of trash piles that collect water and banning cut flowers with vases in cemeteries. Other effective techniques include flipping buckets and dumping any water every four days, filling or cutting off any pools that form in dead trees, planting willows near or providing drainage for puddles in paths, spraying down birdbaths every four days, stopping drippy faucets, and fixing gutters to allow for better waterflow.
Reducing breeding sites can be a daunting task because of the scale required to make a significant impact. One smaller scale approach to reduction is to trap mosquitoes. Trapping females is best done using bait, whether humans or animals (specialty products to trap 'skitoes work too). The idea is to convert chicken coops, human gathering locations, and window screens into minnow traps where the concave angle of an exterior screen leads mosquitoes through a hole to a container where the convex interior angles make it difficult to get out. A similar minnow trap system could be applied to attract males using a speaker to generate a tone at 484 Hz.
It may feel good to trap mosquitoes to show them who’s boss, but humans are often less effective than nature. There are many ways to tweak the structure of the area to make an environment more hostile towards mosquitoes. Dry air, wind, birds, and bats all drive shivers down the spine of mosquitoes. Swallows and bats both thrive in areas without a canopy but with boxes or overhangs to rest underneath. Additionally, if you would like to plant trees and bushes for a forest garden, it is preferable to plant those in relatively thin strips perpendicular to the predominant wind with areas open between rows for predators. On days of high speed crosswind, swallows will pick every bug that blows out within forty feet of the forest edge. I couldn’t find any specific research on the benefit of edges perpendicular to the wind for predators, but I have seen incredible feasts of mosquitoes and mayflies!
In general, mosquitos do not like wind, both because it makes it difficult to fly and because it disperses the trail of carbon dioxide they are attracted to. So the final systemic environmental change is the most experimental: to create wind with heat. Hot and cold drafts create global and local scale winds which can be manipulated even on small to medium scale. Hot areas create light air, causing updrafts that suck air towards the hot area; cold areas create heavy air that will flow down hills. To apply these concepts, one can use a few simple methods. Place pools of water on tops of hills to create a focused cold airflow downhill in the afternoon. Place roads or rock piles going up a hillside to cause a focused airflow in the afternoon up the hill and towards heat from nearby areas.
Of course, the final line of protection is changing yourself. Legend has it that applying lemongrass and/or eucalyptus to your skin repels mosquitoes. Additionally, I have heard that eating more garlic and less sugary or yeasty food can reduce how attractive you are to mosquitos. Please report back if you try this, as I would love to hear the results.
In the village, Malok, the resident mosquito catcher, catches the specific mosquito that causes problems (the alpha) by running around the entire village with their entire body covered in OFF other than one spot. Once the mosquito lands, Malok captures the problematic one to free the village of troubles. I can highly recommend this method too.
We just got our hands on a copy of the Earthbound Farmer’s Almanac. It’s a lovely little book, full of practical wisdom and grounded reflections on our changing world. Order yours now from Emergent Goods.
This is a Farmer's Almanac for the end of the world. Growing food used to be a lot more straightforward, when you'd plant your okra the same time every year like your grandpa did. Now we've got to be ready for anything—late spring freezes, freak heat waves that bring plants out of dormancy too early, fire season longer every year, the polar vortex—and if that wasn't enough, we've also got to contend with the fallout from breakages in the global supply chain, when millions of gallons of milk get poured down the drain and mountains of potatoes are left to rot. It's a world that calls for a new kind of Farmer's Almanac.
Today's crisis has roots in the earliest moments of land theft against native peoples, a process that has continued alongside hundreds of years of slavery and colonization. The way forward, out of this mess, will mean grappling with the crimes of the past as well as charting a new course guided by black and indigenous knowledge, creative experimentation in food production and paying attention across generational and species divides.
"The endgame is that no one can survive outside their rule, that everyone and everything must walk into the jaws of the planter or, in other words, that the earth itself is what must be consumed." Fred Moten and Stefano Harney on communism as life beyond rule.
"Shifting ownership of the means of computation is not as straightforward as workers taking over a factory or a mine." Ingrid Burrington on the power, property, and policy beneath the internet.
"The police, facing strained working conditions and national crises, are also organizing themselves into a politically legible force." Rona Lorimer on the police, law, and repression.
"As a system based on cooperation and solidarity among humans and non-human nature, permaculture offers a radical reimagination of the possible." Rebecca Ellis on the limits and potentials of the permaculture movement.
"Any technology we adopt should be both appropriate to the world as it exists and to the future we desire." Jackie Brown and Philippe Mesly on the meaning of appropriate technology.
"A new species is attempting to be born. Its basis for solidarity is a commitment to struggle, shared risk, and radical desires of liberation." Shemon on race, revolt, and the left.
"We have to build an ungovernable force by expanding practices of autonomy that provide for our and others’ sustenance and well-being." Crimethinc on the juncture in Chile.
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