Monday, January 06, 2014

Theodicy


Oh, God. Not again. Woke this morning to an infestation of mosquitoes in the house, especially the bathroom. Dozens of them. The occasional mosquito buzzing about our ear at night is not unusual, but…

It happened once before, years ago, when a relation and a friend were using the house. A thousand miles away, we had no idea what was going on. Now we are here, and still don't know where the mosquitoes are coming from.

No standing water. No holes in the screens. They seemed to materialize out of thin air.

Male mosquitos have just two things on their minds: sex and nectar. And only enough nectar to have the energy for sex. It's the females that want our blood, human protein to nourish their offspring. On her antennae are oderant detectors exquisitely tuned for human odor emissions -- indole, phenol, methtlphenols, and other aromatic compounds. She senses them from the other side of the house and follows them up-gradient to where we sleep unawares. If we manage to slap her in the morning, she is engorged with our blood.

Look at the lovely photo here, by Hugh Sturrock of the University of Edinburgh, published some years ago in the journal Nature. Little aviator. Blood sucker with wings. An exquisite contrivance of natural selection, millions of years of patient perfection. And this morning I was murdering them by the dozens.

Oh, well. They've murdered enough of us, abetting deadly pathogens. We're all bound up in this web of life together, eat or be eaten, everyone out for himself. Presumably, we are the only species that can look at a picture of the enemy and say, "Isn't she beautiful."

SWAT!