It’s dark…and suddenly there’s the hugely irritating sound of…a mosquito. BrrrZZZZZzzzzZZZzzZZ…and BANG. Dead. In the spotlight, Bart Knols appears:
‘Mosquitoes. I hate them! That sound! The one good thing about them is… they prefer my wife’
Apparently, it’s her body smell that makes her more attractive to mosquitoes than him. Mosquitoes sniff and smell to find us. And when they find us, they bite. If you’re lucky, you get away with a face full of red spots. If you are not, you catch malaria. Half of the world’s population risks being bitten and getting a disease transmitted by a bite.
Solving malaria is hard work though. Because we may know about body smells and chemicals, but there are lots of different chemicals and mosquitoes. Quite like people: they don’t all have the same taste. African mosquitoes for example, like ankles and feet. Which totally makes sense, says Knols… mosquiTOES. And this discovery triggered another one. Smelly feet sometimes remind of cheeses you’d rather hide in a well-covered cellar in a remote corner of the world. Well, says Knols, cheese smells like feet rather than the other way around. And African malaria mosquitoes love, really love Limburger cheese. And now, why anyone would want this remains a mystery, it is possible to create a synthetic stinky cheese smell. No need for the real stuff anymore. And it works better than the real stuff. It’s now being used in Tanzania. Rather them than us, I’d say.
Dogs smell too. Although hardly ever as bad as Limburger cheese. Dogs are another weapon against malaria mosquitoes. Those pesky winged vampires are like the CIA. They lie, immobile, concentrated in pools of water, where they can be found and fought. Concentrated. Immobile. Accessible. But whereas the CIA still has a sound of mystery and adventure to it, mosquitoes don’t. An inspector with insecticides for mosquito larvae still has to search for pools. But teamed with dogs, who can be taught to smell mosquitoes, they are lots more effective. The sniffer dogs can smell infected people too. Forget fighting dogs. Next thing you know, your dachshund will be off to Africa to do a stint of malaria duty.
But Bart Knols has saved the best for last. He has found a great weapon. It consists of enjoying being bitten. Which seems a bit odd, but if you take this special pill he invented and let yourself be bitten, the result: very dead mosquitoes. Beware to all cheese loving flying pests: now it’s our turn to kill YOU.
A blog by Marije Elderenbosch