Thursday, August 28, 2008

Give blood...

...they're taking it anyway.

So... it's been quite a skeeter summer, deep in the heart (or bowels?) of Red Hook. Hell, all of Brooklyn, it seems. Why, we have all asked, are there so many frigging monsters pricking into any and every bit of exposed skin (and some creepin' up under some folks' clothes, wink wink nudge nudge)? Well... Some guy called Gersh found out:

Buzz off!
By Gersh Kuntzman
The Brooklyn Paper

People from Greenpoint to Bay Ridge have been complaining about “being eaten alive” by mosquitos this summer — but it’s not just the normal seasonal whining: the population of a particularly insidious blood-sucker has doubled this summer alone.

And that cute tyke below is one of the prime victims!

Sure, he’s my son, but he could be your son. In fact, he is your son. And daughter. And yourself.

After getting sporadic, unconfirmed and altogether unscientific reports that there has been a huge uptick in skeeters this summer, I called the Health Department to find out if my neighbors and I were just going mad or if we really become human blood banks.

Confirmed: We are insect food.

The Asian tiger mosquito — a species once entirely unknown to America — is showing up in record numbers in Health Department testing sites all over the borough.

And unlike normal, relatively slow and less aggressive breeds, this ornery beast is ruining barbecues, turning restaurant gardens into feedlots (for the bug, that is) and, yes, biting my son in so many places that he looks like a pincushion.

“It has been a good summer for mosquito [breeding], weather-wise,” said Dr. Edgar Butts, the Health Department’s assistant commissioner for vetinary and pest control.

“The bad news is that the Asian tiger mosquito has doubled in population. And this is a tenacious mosquito that will really go after you,” Butts said.

“The good news is that it’s not a good vector for West Nile Virus,” he added, putting in his department’s standard plea for people to report all standing water in the city’s ongoing effort to cut down on West Nile–carrying bugs.

I agree that disease-prevention is one good reason to call 311 whenever you see a water-filled tire. And of course, I’m concerned that my son’s only memories of his first summer on earth will be that of repetitive scratching and vague recollections of waking up screaming in pain.
Brooklyn Bridge Realty

But there’s yet another reason to bemoan the fertility of the Asian tiger mosquito: They’re even biting our beloved celebrities!

“They’re with us — especially in Brooklyn, where I live,” Park Slope resident and international screen siren Maggie Gyllenhaal told David Letterman last month, during a weird digression about mosquitos. “They’re insaaaane in Brooklyn.”

Yes, my friends, if you’ve been bitten by a mosquito this summer, you may have a blood link to Maggie Gyllenhaal.

But the “Dark Knight” star isn’t the only one who’s hearing a giant sucking sound coming from her leg.

“Everyone is complaining,” said Carlos Elias, the co-owner of the new restaurant Aji on Ninth Street in Park Slope. The restaurant is heavily dependent on its two outdoor seating areas (they’re lovely, by the way), which he says are not getting the kind of traffic they could be getting.

Posters on Park Slope Parents, the ubiquitous neighborhood Web site, have been trading secrets about which repellents work best (full disclosure: I have put so much DEET on my arms that I set off smoke detectors in neighboring houses) and whether the “mosquito season” will be over by September so a friend can go ahead and plan an outdoor birthday party.

Not sufficiently horrified? Well, let me tell you a few choice words about our “friend,” Aedes albopictus. Originally spotted in Texas in 1985, this pernicious little devil now has a range that spreads from Mexico to Greenpoint, though his main stomping grounds seem to be the Bible Belt (for now).

According to the Centers for Disease Control (and these people should know; they’re based in Atlanta!), the tiger mosquito is “an aggressive day-biter and is most active from 10 am to 3 pm.”

And their eggs “can survive very cold winters.”

Here’s hoping that we go into a mini–Ice Age this December. Otherwise, these mosquitos are coming back in full force next spring and carrying off my son as their love slave.
Gersh Kuntzman is the Editor of The Brooklyn Paper. E-mail Gersh at

©2008 The Brooklyn Paper

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