I’m a mosquito attractant. It’s very irritating (quite literally!) that I always seem to end up with many more bites than anyone else. And I react so well, too. Within a day my legs will be covered in large red weals. It’s a great look when you’re wearing shorts! I’ve been bitten on the feet while camping in France, leaving me limping around in flip-flops for a week and more. In Kenya, I was fine until we reached the coast, then we had to call in a doctor to treat my vigorous over-reaction to just one single evening at an open-air restaurant. I’ve learned to be very careful.
Once it gets to dusk, I’ll close all the windows before switching on the light, and I always wear long trousers when going out for dinner. However, this September on Hvar I was caught out pretty badly. It was the night of the thunderstorm, when the dry heat of the summer gave way to drenching rain. We watched the distant lightning flashes from our terrace for a while, and then set out for dinner. Outside, of course. As the storm reached Vrboska, we sat under the awning and watched the rain come pelting down, the first for months. It was still very hot, and now it was wet as well. It’s difficult to close up the windows overnight in those conditions. We don’t have air conditioning, we don’t have a ceiling fan, and we don’t have nets on the windows. Yet.
And so I was badly bitten on my legs and feet. And these bites turned out to be much worse than normal – the usual dose of benadryl and hydrocortisone did nothing to soothe them. Fairly soon my legs were so swollen I couldn’t wear my shoes. It was completely ridiculous, I really don’t remember having that bad a reaction before. So I took myself off to the pharmacy in Stari Grad in search of more effective relief. I always find pharmacists in Croatia to be wonderfully helpful. In this case, between some anti-inflammatory pills and strong anti-itch ointment, I was restored to normal within a few days.
Apparently I wasn’t the only one suffering a particularly bad reaction to mosquito bites this year. Other people too have been finding the same thing, locals, even. Is it possible that there is a new type of mosquito around? Well, yes there is. Apparently the more aggressive Asian Tiger Mosquito has been making inroads into Europe, especially around the Mediterranean and Adriatic coasts, and is now moving north along with the warmer climate. It’s pretty much world-wide these days, thanks to the trade in car tyres and lucky bamboo. These particular mozzies can effectively live and breed in small plant pots, they don’t need lots of standing water. That could explain why they’re so numerous at the end of an extremely dry summer on Hvar. Now I didn’t inspect my attackers very closely, but it’s possible they were tigers!
The local authorities on Hvar do spray regularly against mosquitoes, and you can wage your own chemical warfare with a trip to the supermarket. We supplied ourselves with insect killer and repellant spray, and from then on we diligently applied it both to ourselves when going out for the evening, and to the bedroom windows at night as we firmly closed them. If you want to try the traditional Hvar method, you can use lavender oil both as a repellant and as an anti-itch on the bites. It smells much better, and in previous years that’s worked pretty well for me, but apparently the new tiger mozzies aren’t in the least bit deterred. I also got some sonic device to try (not sure it actually did anything) and we’ve now ordered nets for all the windows. I’ll be better prepared for next year!