<i>Editor’s Note: The Quackers are three awesome ducks from the canals of Venice, Calif. who are on a mission to educate the community about the dangers of global warming and the importance of practicing sustainability, all while surfing the most gnarly waves possible.</i>

Rusty can only survive so long without surfing, or so he says. Traveling had kept us from surfing for two weeks. He said he was fading fast and needed some wave action “stat.” Then he folded his wings across his chest and refused to go any further.

 I decided a slight detour to Galveston, Texas might be a necessity if we were to get home. This was a surf emergency. 

We saw some dudes carrying boards and got the scoop. East beach was OK but they were having a sandcastle building contest and it was crowded. San Luis pass was all right but we should watch out for the killer tides and killer sharks. Naturally Rusty voted for that one, but Richard and I used our veto power and took their last suggestion, Flagship Beach.

On the way to Flagship we spotted a deserted spot with less than perfect 2 to 3 footers. Rusty could not wait. Thirty minutes later a revitalized Rusty emerged from the water smiling and singing at the top of his lungs the Beach Boys song “Catch a Wave and You’re Sitting on Top of the World.” That was our signal to continue home.

It was great to be home. Flowers were blooming, bees were buzzing and birds were singing. Our yard had transformed in our absence.

We walked around admiring all the colorful blossoms until Rusty called out, “Richard, come look! Someone put weird, tiny fish in the birdbath.”

Richard peered into the water and laughed, “Rusty, these aren’t fish, they are mosquito larvae!” Immediately Richard dumped the water out of the birdbath.

From that moment on Rusty was convinced he heard mosquitoes buzzing around his ears. Every few minutes he would brush the air with his wings. He despised mosquitoes.  They loved him. He told Richard he was declaring war. He was going to set depth charges in the birdbath and landmine the garden. Looking crazed, he ran to the garage mumbling about a mini flame thrower and with a fist in the air yelled, “Make my day!” We ran after him screaming, “No!”

We got Rusty to sit down for a minute. Richard calmed him while I made some iced tea. We had to talk. 

After a few sips of tea and a couple of deep breaths Rusty seemed ready to listen.  Richard told him he understood his aversion to mosquitoes but it would be a mistake to wipe out all mosquitoes. They were not total bad guys. They played an important role in the ecosystem. The adults feed on nectar and are responsible for pollinating plants like orchids and goldenrod. They are food for many wildlife species. Dragonflies, frogs, lizards, fish, birds and bats find them quite delectable.

Rusty seemed more receptive. I told him if it made him feel any better only half of the mosquito population was out to get him, the females. They bite to get the iron and protein they need to reproduce. They are stealth trackers, finding us and other vertebrates by following trails of carbon dioxide, body heat and water vapor that we radiate. To that Rusty said, “Great, now all I need to do is quit breathing and drinking!”

Richard assured him that there were more practical things we could do to avoid being bit and being a mosquito farm. Female mosquitoes need water to lay their eggs but larvae are not good swimmers so she looks for water with little or no movement like clogged rain gutters, flower pot saucers, kiddie pools and birdbaths. We would empty all standing water twice a week before the larvae could turn into biting adults.

Rusty wasn’t convinced that was enough. He wanted a bug zapper and some poison. I sighed and told him that mosquitoes are not attracted to light so the only insects that would be killed by the zapper were the beneficial ones we wanted to keep around. As far as poison, it might kill the mosquitoes but it would also kill the “good guys,” like the lizards and frogs that already help keep the mosquito population down naturally.

Richard added that mosquitoes were most active at dawn and dusk. Rusty could avoid going out at that time or could wear long sleeves and pants for protection.

In the end, we were able to talk Rusty out of mosquito annihilation by appealing to his sense of goodness. Richard bought Rusty a citronella candle and made a lotion of lemon balm and mint to rub on. I know that mosquitoes are not strong fliers so I installed a ceiling fan in Rusty’s bedroom and on the porch. A good fan was often all that was needed to keep those pesky biters away on a lazy summer evening. Rusty is keeping his fingers crossed.

Phyllis and the Quackers can be reached at phyllis@phyllischavez.com

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