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Sep 15, 2007

SCRATCH SCRATCH

The first time I came to Saint-Barth I thought it was pretty funny to see a jeep with the words "Dead Mosquito" painted on its sides. What I didn't realize at the time, is that the driver's sole mission in life is to eradicate the island's most tenacious social climbers: the mosquito population. But I can tell you that he is fighting a losing battle. The natives of the island have been here so long they seem to have made a bargain with these flying pests: You don't bite me and I guarantee you a stream of fresh, unprotected skin to nibble on. In exchange, the "maringoins" as they are called in local patois, leave the islanders alone. So the little beasts line up at the airport like 747s waiting for take-off at O'Hare or Kennedy. As soon as a planeload of tourists arrives, the mosquitoes make a beeline to the best of the four-star villas and hotels. Then the fun begins. There is no end to the anti-mosquito aids available to combat these insatiable insects, but to my knowledge, not too many of them actually work. In trying to make my house mosquito-free, I first tried an ultrasonic electronic box you plug into the wall. Its presence met with suppressed distrust by my island-native husband who just doesn't get what all the fuss is about. He was right. The high-pitched noise emitted by the box, and unheard by the human ear, was supposed to repel the little monsters. But this one must have played songs from Beetlejuice or some other bug-ridden music as they danced around it like moths around a flame. Then I tried some repellent houseplants but they must have tasted like catnip as the feline members of our household made short work of these. I have also tried little vaporizers stuck into electrical outlets, pools of citronella, citronella candles and even little squares of citronella you squeeze and stick onto flat surfaces. I've also tried bug-away bracelets, and cannot count the cans of bug spray I've donated to the hole in the ozone layer. What works best are the old-fashioned insect coils that you burn. These actually seem to reduce the swarming and I recommend a few on the patio every time you serve a meal outdoors. Otherwise you'll never know if your dinner partners are searching for dropped food and lost contact lenses, or simply scratching and shooing away unwanted party guests. Covering your body is another option and every room in my house has a bottle of liquid citronella, or other products such as Off and its spin-off lotions, Avon's Skin-so-Soft and some soothing green gel sold by the Fuller Brush Company. The problem with some of these is that people back away from you in line at the supermarket, or they compete violently with your husband's after-shave. And I never know if the bug stuff should be slathered on over or under the sunscreen. Maybe one day, somebody will figure out how to hybridize them out of existence but in the meantime, the "Dead Mosquito" jeep is still a common sight on the island and a second company called Bio-Tech has added its fumigating techniques to the mix (and they do a pretty good job at our house actually). Now if someone could just invent some mosquito-repellent furniture polish....

More to come,
Ellen Lampert-Greaux


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