The Outsider: The horrow of the howling

“I was woken by ‘the howling’ last night, whoa it was loud.” These were the words of a somewhat ornery colleague of mine one morning last week.

I pictured a pack of wolves serenading the bright moon in his backyard, or a band of wily coyotes yipping and laughing as they celebrated coming upon nearby road kill. But my sleep deprived friend meant other deadly denizens of the dark. 

“Millions of them, that’s what it sounded like, clamouring to get in. And that noise, the incessant high-pitched scream. Oh, it was bloodthirsty.” He’s grinning now, knowing that his description is somewhat exaggerated but we get his drift. His ‘howling’ is the sound of hordes of mosquitoes buzzing at the bug screen of his open bedroom window, their aggravating individual whining reaching a crescendo as more and more insects join the fray.

And that got me thinking, why is it that mosquitoes make that noise? Even a single one in your bedroom will wake you as it searches for a tasty spot for dinner. 

The sound is intensely annoying in the middle of the night, or anytime for that matter but imagine if there were no sound – mosquitoes in stealth mode – and these vampiric villains could fly in and attack with no warning whatsoever. It seems to me that the mosquito’s buzz is its Achilles heel, if a bug can have a heel, the one thing that gives us a chance, affords us a modicum of warning before the strike. 

Then, as my mind fell further into this rabbit hole of useless thought, I began to see a pattern. Blackflies, hate em’. Clouds of the tiny blighters swarm you and it should be a bloodbath but they don’t bite immediately, instead landing and then wandering around for a while to find a nice secluded spot to dine. That’s your chance to squish them but don’t take too long or they’ll be in your hairline, under your shirt cuff and munching. 

Deer and horseflies, too. Just think what kind of hell a hot summer afternoon would be if these chompers with wings were actually any good at landing first time, rather than bashing into the back of your head for five minutes before getting their bearings. 

I guess we should be thankful. While affording all these annoying bugs life, Mother Nature was looking out for us somewhat when she made them. “Hmm, food for birds and spiders … ah yes, blood eating bugs, they’re nice and nutritious. Best not make them too good at it though or the pesky humans will go completely crazy as they get eaten alive.” 

And, so it is the howling, not of wolves but mosquitoes that he and I, and many of you listen to as we drift off into an uneasy sleep, wondering how long it will be before the insects join forces. Asking wearily how long before the insects evolve and the mozzies employ the deerflies with their sharp gnashers to chew through the bug screen so they can suck my blood en masse in the middle of the night?  

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