Mosquitos, our friendly enemies

veteran’s corner

Tom Krabbenhoft

Being both a lifelong resident of Moorhead and a military history buff I’m surprised at the city councils decision not to spray mosquitoes. Luckily the dry weather has provided a temporary victory over the vicious vectors.

This could change rapidly with precipitation. A better plan B other than bat boxes and increasing the Purple Martin population should be implemented. Mosquitoes carry Dengue, Yellow Fever, Malaria, and West Nile Virus. Pre Covid the CDC banged the Zika Virus drum hard as it’s potentially the most dangerous. All of these diseases have broken out in the US because of the mosquito.

I’m reminded of many military efforts thwarted by the lowly mosquitoes. Harkening back to one book I read several years ago, Mosquito Empires by J.R. McNeill details many accounts.

In 1697 the kingdom of Scotland set off an establishment off the Panama coast. New Caledonia had it succeeded may have launched the Scots into a world power. Instead a very large share of Scottish wealth and death of over 70 % of the 2500 brave souls that attempted settlement foiled this plan. So much so Scotland entered into union with England in 1707.

Spanish efforts to colonize the Western hemisphere were halted many times. Venezuela, Haiti, Columbia are just a few countries that may owe impendence to the mosquito.

The next almost 200 years similar plans were halted across the America’s. France losing Canada to Britain tried reestablishing a new foothold in what is now French New Guiana. 11,000 hopeful French and other European citizens. They suffered upwards 90 % fatalities rate mostly due to Yellow Fever.

The American Revolution may have been lost if not for the mosquito. In the late 1770s the southern states played an important role. The British were barely able to conduct operations as European herd immunity was almost zero. The colonists with strong herd immunity were able to operate. Cornwallis moved his troops from the marshy South Carolinas to Virginia. There in the 1780s his troops were ravaged by Malaria, so much that only 50 % of his army was operational. It prevented the British from anti siege operations. This allowed American and French troops to fortify their positions and hole up Cornwallis’s troops from operating leading to his surrender at Yorktown.

Cuban Doctor Carlos Finlay penned the first theory of mosquitoes carrying diseases. US Army Doctors led by Walter Reed confirmed the theory. The US took over digging operations on the Panama Canal, after the French withdrew because of mosquito borne illnesses. Dr. Walter Reed and his efforts eradicating the mosquito population led to the successful completion of the canal.

Mosquito elimination leads to a better, safer society.

The Brady Oberg Legacy Foundation is holding a motorcycle ride this Saturday July 24th. Start point is Ulen with departure at noon. Support a great cause.

Story ideas, Veteran of the week submissions email me at 11btwk@gmail.com

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