By Bud Herron
Females have all the fun and also cause all the problems.
They show up at the mixer about nightfall. The guys have already gathered, knowing they will outnumber the ladies about 20 to 1. And, if they are to have any chance at a date — and possibly more — they better get in line for a dance.
The girls will only flit around the party for about 20 minutes. Then they buzz off for a ladies-only dip in the neighborhood pool, leaving the boys who “got lucky” and those who didn’t (most of them) to gather around the local watering hole and swap brags and lies about the evening’s exploits.
A couple of the more sensitive guys — who failed to get a single dance all evening — now sit over in the corner with a jigger of swamp water and analyze their failure.
“I know it is my ear hair,” Marvin Mosquito, one crestfallen single, tells his equally hapless buddy. “I grow it and groom it but it is never long enough to attract the ladies.”
And, of course, the sad refugee from the singles dance is right. It IS his ear hair. Males with inadequate ear hair are destined to flop at the mosquito mating game. Sad.
Ear hair — long and glorious — is the tracking device that enables the guys to locate their dates in the swarm of a singles mixer.
Yet, as an outside-the-species observer, I can’t help but wonder why these trustworthy, harmless guys would bother with courting those blood-sucking females in the first place.
The females don’t have long ear hair of their own, although a few may have to tweeze an occasional hair on their chins as they get older. (I am not sure about this. If you are writing a paper for your college entomology class, do not include this unverified detail.)
The long ear hair on the males is extremely important because it enables them to hear the high-pitched buzz of the females and track them down and mate as they swarm around human being cookouts and patio gatherings. The humans down on the patio are oblivious to the whole party until the females begin biting them and stealing some blood.
Although some of the older human males seem to have enough ear hair to track a buffalo, their ears cannot hear the high-pitch buzz of the lady mosquitos. But they can hear the lower-pitched buzz of the males.
So itchy humans blame the males for the bites and for the diseases that can come with them — West Nile Virus, encephalitis, and malaria to name a few.
The males are much better mannered among human beings than their girlfriends. They don’t bite people at all. They couldn’t care less about people. All they want is a one-night-stand and a chance to fertilize some eggs.
According to the August issue of “Nature Communications,” scientists are in the process of trying to break up the whole party and stop the promiscuous coupling that produces all those baby mosquitos — thus reducing the spread of disease.
They have learned that the males’ ear hair (referred to by scientists with the much less romantic term “fibrillar”) is made to stand at attention and track the females when a chemical signal is sent out from the insect’s brain. That neurotransmitter — called octopamine — turns the ear hair into a tracking device.
If an insecticide capable of disrupting the release of octopamine proves successful, the males will stay home to watch some football on TV and have a couple of shots of swamp water.
One such bug spray — called Amitraz — already has shown great promise. And although development of a spray safe to humans and tragic to the male mosquito libido is a ways off, there is hope that breaking up the nightly mixers and promiscuous behavior will someday reduce the mosquito population and lessen the spread of disease to people.
Still, it makes me feel a bit sorry for Marvin Mosquito and all his friends. Why should they have to pay for the blood-sucking lifestyle of the ladies? Seems really unfair.
(I hope my frankness is not offensive. If you are against sex education, please hide this column from children under 18. Also, call the county library and insist today’s newspaper be banned or kept under lock and key in the librarian’s filing cabinet.)
Bud Herron is the retired former publisher of The Republic and the former editor and publisher of the Daily Journal in Franklin. Contact him at [email protected].