The little pests get everywhere … including the history books!
The male mosquito may only average a 10-day lifespan and the female a little over 50 days, but they’ve been a sore point for over 46 million years. And like it or not, they’ve played a huge role in world history.
We’re not just talking about some book about dinosaur DNA. From stopping colonization to being unwitting allies for American soldiers, the mosquito has left a bigger mark than those red bumps on our arms. Just ask the citizens of Orange County if they’d like to go back to their old moniker between 1824-1845: “Mosquito County.”
Let’s take a look at some of the ways mosquitos have influenced history:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Those were the words of Scottish national poet Robert Burns, who tried to warn us not to put too much faith in our plans. His countrymen could have used the advice when they tried to set up an ambitious trading post in modern day Panama.
The Darien Scheme of 1698 was an ill-fated attempt by Scotland to colonize what was rumored to be a promising area. In reality, the region was a disastrous disappointment. Four hundred of the 1,200 settlers who set sail with high hopes were picked off by hostile forces and lack of food. Unfortunately, the 800 Scots who survived starvation and combat were laid low by fever, courtesy of the local mosquitos. Despite the grand ambition of the Scottish plan, Darien was abandoned as a potential paradise.
Mosquitos also got in the way of Britain conquering strongholds in Columbia and Cuba in the 1740s. And in 1763, the insects nearly destroyed more colonialist plans. Ninety percent of settlers (mostly from France who had just lost Canada to the British) who set out to form what we now call French Guiana were killed by mosquito-borne diseases. Of the eleven thousand who set out for the colony, only about a thousand survived the mosquito attacks to settle the region.
Some unlikely revolutionaries
When Haitian slaves revolted against their French oppressors in 1791, the victory 13 years later was due in large part to mosquitos carrying yellow fever; the disease laid waste to the colonial forces.
In addition, the home team was outnumbered 3-1 at one stage of the American Revolution. The British may have had the manpower, but those men weren’t as powerful as the American troops. Immunity was our secret weapon. After years of being raised in the South, our own boys had built up a resistance to the crippling effects of mosquito-borne diseases.
The British weren’t so lucky. At one point, over half of British forces commanded by Lord Cornwallis in the southern theatre were too ill to get on their feet. American and French troops laid siege to their position until the surrender at Yorktown, winning the decisive battle in the struggle for American independence.
That wasn’t the only time mosquitoes were more help than hindrance to US military efforts. In the South Pacific battles of World War II, American troops were better equipped to deal with malaria, and maintained this advantage over Japanese soldiers.
A novel way to beat mosquitos
In 1935, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) enabled millions of Americans to work during the Great Depression. The program did its part to beat unemployment, but it is a small post office from that era that became home to the kind of beating we really like.
Founded in 1986, The Mosquito Beaters have their headquarters in an old WPA-era post office which is now the Library of Florida History. They hold a thousand-strong gathering once a year at the Walter Butler Community Center in Cocoa. Over the course of a weekend, pre-1950s residents of Brevard County (and nowadays, anybody who’d like to drop by) meet to reminisce about the area’s dark days – when there were more mosquitos in Brevard County than people. It was a time when young men had to string palm leaves together to provide primitive mosquito cover for their relatives – these coverings were known as “mosquito beaters.”
The group enjoys stories of bygone, well-bitten days, and The Mosquito Beaters’ memories are regularly preserved in an annual publication available at the Library of Florida History.
Keep mosquitos where they belong – in the past
Platinum Mosquito Protection’s mission is to relegate mosquitos to history. Our automatic misting system is your best defense against these empire-tumbling and barbeque-ruining pests. For more information on our low-visibility, custom-designed technology, you can call us at 954.888.9311 in Broward County, 305.627.6666 in Dade, and 561.744.7787 in Palm Beach. You can also fill out our contact form for a free on-site consultation.