Back in June I wrote a post called The balance of good vs. mosquitoes (evil). I wrote in this post that “More than one person has asked the question why mosquitoes live among us. I am sure some think they are simply a sadistic joke God plays on us to keep us humble. The real answer is balance. Mosquitoes serve a purpose, a complex and important purpose.” This weekend I experienced first hand the purpose, both the complex and the important.
We went to Charleston, SC, a city I truly love to visit and explore. A city with a rich history and great food. The plan was to get there early Friday and ride our mountain bikes on the Swamp Fox Passage/Palmetto Trail in the Francis Marion National Forest after lunch. The parking spot for the trailhead is off Highway 17 in the woods. Pulling in, we had to get the bikes off the car and change into our cycling clothes. Here is the problem with these activities, we weren’t really moving very fast.
No sooner had I opened my car door than a flock, a swarm, an unruly gang of crow sized mosquitoes descended on top of us. Now where I live, in the foothills of South Carolina, the mosquitoes are small. Yes they are irritating but manageable and respond well to a light coating of bug repellant. Charleston mosquitoes act as if bug spray is whip cream on top of a banana split and my arms and legs were the bananas and my head the cherry.
Never the less we ventured on, swatting at imaginary objects in the sky. We convinced ourselves that we, humans, the smartest creatures on the earth couldn’t be out done by a life form that has never had a sane or rational thought in its short bug life. We were wrong.
Hurricane Matthew had caused trees and limbs to fall on the trail which required us to dismount our bikes and, you got it, stand still for a moment. I might be able to out pedal a mosquito but I discovered very quickly I can’t out walk or run them. After about two miles of this adventure I waved the white flag. I realized that we were simply warm-blooded, knuckle dragging mammals to these assassins. The fact that I could add and subtract, tie my shoes or contemplate the meaning of life provided me with no leverage. My blood was no better than the lowly squirrel, I just had more of it, a buffet of warm liquid that was being drained at an alarming rate.
I talked about balance in my first post, that mosquitoes serve a purpose, a complex and important purpose. What I didn’t consider is those places in the world where the scales of balance are tipped in one direction, away from humans and exclusively with mosquitoes. In the civilized world, we balance our war with mosquitoes with chemicals. In the uncivilized world mosquitoes balance the war with mass and savagery. I realized that the true balance of nature wasn’t in my backyard but in the wilds of a forest, a place untamed by the natural order of evolution. I didn’t belong here with my fancy bike and Lycra shorts and the mosquitoes made damn sure I knew that.
The 258,864 acre Francis Marion National Forest is a wild and expansive world. It is home to more than 1,600 species of plants, 48 species of mammals, 250 species of birds, 43 species of amphibians, 58 species of reptiles and one bad ass bug. I hope it will remain as it is, a universe guarded by a swarm of creatures that care nothing about politics, intelligence, pedigree, where you are from, or how important you think you are. To a mosquito we all taste the same, a little like chicken.