Half Dome – Yosemite Musing
A gigantic annoyance when hiking at Yosemite can be the bugs – mosquitoes in particular. I generally don’t get bothered on my Half Dome hikes. Occasionally at the Merced in Little Yosemite Valley they come out to devour. Today we talk about those buggers.
Skeeters can be more than an annoyance. These tough insects have been discovered “frozen” in amber that is over 100 milion years old. There are over 2500 different species of mosquitoes but only about a dozen feed on humans. They are responsible for more than an estimated 500 million cases of malaria a year. About 2 million worldwide die. And thousands more suffer from dengue, yellow fever and West Nile Virus. No, things aren’t that bad in the Sierra, but West Nile is now a concern even in the USA. Mosquitoes need stagnant water to breed so often they are near ponds and standing puddles. The wind breezes of higher altitudes are not friendly to them. Only females bite and they use blood to incubate their eggs. Years ago, DDT was used to combat the pests but that is pretty well taboo these days. DEET is the current stuff to use to repel flying insects. Some think Citronella and “natural” products work.
Here’s the 4-1-1 on the West Nile virus. Seems that in the Nile Valley in Uganda, a deadly pathogen associated with a bird affliction was picked up by mosquitoes and gradually was transmitted to humans. With increased human travel and interaction malaria spread. 1999 saw the first case of West Nile in the US. It was in New York and may have arrived in a cargo ship or in a zoo animal from Africa. Almost 800 Americans have died from it since then. Even DDT is losing its effectiveness. If you are traveling to sub-Saharan Africa, be sure to take the anti-malaria program.
So what are humans doing in the fight? Scientists are trying various strategies. One is to release sterile mosquitoes to hinder reproduction. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (aka Microsoft) donated millions of dollars to research this decade. Genetic engineers are looking at ways to mutate the malarial component. Study of human heat and odor as attractants are another idea. The concept is to render people “invisible” to mosquitoes by using a scented spray.
Conclusion: The insects will take over the planet if we aren’t too careful. Use DEET and a netted suit if you are in a mosquito prone area. Long sleeves and pants help. I did a fishing trip north of Ottawa and we all wore head to toe netting. Bzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
The Hiking 101 class in Campbell starts Wed the 12th. Still time to sign up. Details <HERE>.
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “Love me tender, love me sweet. Never let me go. You have made my life complete. And I love you so.” – Elvis – Happy Birthday, January 8.
*MrHalfDome – Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com