The Last Word

I live in the Panama Canal Zone.

No, there hasn’t been any attempt to connect the Souhegan River to Hampton Beach with a man-made waterway. I, like probably two-thirds of you, can empathize with the malaria-ridden laborers of the early 1900s. Every time I step out my door, I inhale a hearty helping of mosquitoes.

The fact that Yellow Fever has been replaced with the West Nile virus doesn’t significantly alter the equation for me. Every bloodsucking bite is an attack on my personal sovereignty. Every attack on my child brings out the Godfather in me, an irrepressible urge to wipe out the attacker’s siblings, parents, cousins, nieces and nephews.

All this insect-inspired rage makes my wallet extremely vulnerable. Military-style marketing promises to “reclaim your backyard” were enough to convince me to purchase the Mosquito Magnet Advanced Biting Insect Defense System, the NORAD of suburbia. “Originally developed to protect overseas troops faced with some of the most brutal mosquito conditions in the world,” the pricey traps (ranging from $295 to $1,395) are “based on the methodology of the U.S. Army’s Walter Reed Medical Institute.”

These guys had me at “hello.”

After reading a mix of caustic and cheerleading testimonials on – and getting B-plus feedback from a friend who lives in a heavily wooded area – I bought a mid-priced Mosquito Magnet promising to cover an acre.

This machine won’t eliminate every insect in your yard, he said, but it will transform a totally unbearable yard into a somewhat bearable one. As evidence, he giddily explained his once-a-week ritual of emptying the trap’s net — a massive ball of dead mosquitoes representing hundreds of bites that never were.

Before I plunked down my credit card, I made a recruiting pitch to my next-door neighbor, an avid barbecue enthusiast. I thought my mission would be a slam dunk. Would he be interested in also buying a Mosquito Magnet to double our killing power, given that our property straddles the same wetlands? Would he be interested in creating an anti-mosquito Justice League? My neighbor laughed at me like we were in medieval Europe and I was proposing that the Earth revolved around the sun and not vice versa.

He laughed at me like my grandfather does when I suggest he would really enjoy the benefits of DVDs over VHS tapes.

“Those things don’t work,” my neighbor scoffed, explaining his preferred technique of spraying the trees with pesticides about an hour before his family makes its daily summer pilgrimage to the grill. Great. I’m on well water and my neighbor is killing mosquitoes with Agent Orange.

The reason I will lunge at possibly false hope is probably because the other options look so bleak. As alluded to earlier, I’m opposed to poisoning my well even if everyone in the neighborhood is doing it for me. Bats are supposed to funnel down mosquitoes like frat boys around a keg, but it’s extremely tough to convince them to move into your yard. I’ve heard of lots of new bathouse construction that remains vacant. Citronella candles and torches work OK if you stand next to them all night. And the warning label on DEET is scarier than any Stephen King novel. There are other high-tech traps on the market – such as the Coleman Mosquito Deleto and the Flowtron Galaxie Power-Vac – but I have no contact with a real human being who owns one.

So, after a week of Mosquito Magnet protection, I remain cautiously optimistic. My net is not bulging with mosquito flesh, but the body count is still impressive. It would take at least a day of constant clapping to kill as many insects. The instructions say that it takes four to six weeks to “virtually eliminate” the mosquito population. I pray that happens, because right now I am “virtually” paying $2-$3 for every dead bug.

Darren Garnick, a television field producer based in Massachusetts, writes the “Culture Schlock” column for The Telegraph’s Encore section.

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