Friday, May 29, 2015

Writing hones the senses

Writing hones the senses into deeper thinking and analysis, catalyzes understanding and comprehension, and keeps memory longer.

Dr Abe V Rotor

Writing on the ground with stick – it’s blackboard of sort, 
and more.  Puerto Sunken Pier, San Ildefonso, Ilocos Sur

Without map and you are in the field, the best thing you can do is get a stick and draw on the ground.

That’s how village folks plan out irrigation schedules, show the location of a remote sitio (purok), design a makeshift hut – or simply to while away time in thoughts and ideas.

Christ did write on the ground, and on one occasion made two curves facing each other to look like fish - one end its tail, the other its head. It is the simplest yet most symbolic drawing I’ve ever seen. Before he uttered these famous words, “He who has no sin, casts the first stone,” He wrote something on the ground which we can only assume to be a mark of supreme meditation.

Writing hones the senses into deeper thinking and analysis, catalyzes understanding and comprehension, and keeps memory longer. Scientists say that we learn but a measly one-fourth of the lesson by just listening to it alone, but with the use of pen and paper, learning can be enhanced twice, if not thrice.

“Put it in writing,” goes a saying. Yes, even only on the ground as our old folks have always done.

By the way, who has not experienced “writing love letters on the sand?” Listen to balladeer, Pat Boone, sing the song of the same title, and you know what I mean.

Or write your problems where the sea rises and ebbs, and watch how the waves erase them away. This is therapeutic, try it. ~

On Writing
By Abe V Rotor

1. To Jose Rizal:

Your enemies tried to silence you,
and curtailed your freedom;
the lamp flickers its last rays at dawn
to seal your martyrdom.

2. To Aesop:
Ah! Animals talk louder than men
though in screech, crow and bleat;
yet by moral and sanity, speak
not the language on the street.

3. To Ernest Hemingway:
You seemed as brave as the old man
in your great masterpiece;
the soldier, the hunter, the dreamer -
yet wanting a life of peace.

4. To Charles Darwin:
You did not give up to your critics,
who only prayed and preached;
Around the world you witnessed,
Change by random and fit.

5. To Lola Basiang
You touched a million-and-one lives,
around campfires in their prime;
like Grimm and Anderson and Homer,
storytellers of all time. ~

6. To Boris Pasternak
Zhivago, to the end walked away alone,
from  love neither in winter nor fallow;
what romance away from the war zone,  
wrapped in doubt to sorrow's end.

7. To Mark Twain   
I am a boy forever, Tom or Huck,
down the Mississippi loafing;
and let the world go on sans care
what grownups are missing.  

8. To Robert Louis Stevenson 
"Kidnapped" made a boy into a man
too soon to faced a cruel world;
learning quickly the art of war 
deceit and conceit,  gun and sword.

9. To Oscar Wilde
You're a creator of characters and events,
in novels, stories, and plays 
children and adults alike on the armchair
live in those times and places. 

10. To Arthur Conan Doyle
"Sherlock Holmes" lives to this day,
idol of any detective;
"The Lost World" remains of the past,
is back in our midst to live.     

Warm water relieves sore throat and stops coughing

Dr Abe V Rotor

Don’t take medicated drops or syrup for your itchy or sore throat. 

All you need is warm water which you sip now and then to relieve your throat and to stop your coughing.  

Have a thermos of hot water at hand.  Just add to tap water the same amount of hot water.  The warm water is  approximately 50 to 60 degrees Celsius. This temperature is within the Pasteurization temperature range that kills or immobilizes harmful bacteria but not the beneficial ones.   

Drink warm water liberally to replace water lost and restore metabolite balance while helping the body eliminate waste and toxin.  

Common streptococcus bacteria Acknowledgement: Wikipedia, ADAM Internet for images 

Mirror of Nature on the Wall (Ecology Wall Mural)

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of all? 
This wall mural tells and warns us before the Fall. 

Mural Painting and Verses by Dr Abe V Rotor

Orangutan and her baby perched in a tree their home -
mother and child model in the wild - and for whom?

A pair of gray herons patiently stalks for prey,
no fast food, no detritus even if it takes a day.

Too small a herd, remnant of an endangered kind;
bless he who has seen a deer free, it's a lucky find.

Kakapo, macaw, or parrot talking birds and colorful;
Bird of Paradise the rarest and brighest of them all.

Serene these creatures live in peace and harmony;
wouldn't we humans wish - if only there were many?

Nest atop a tree a mother hawk takes care of her brood;
scenario we wish, rather than living on the busy road.

A pair of love birds "'til death thou us part" bound;
while a third warns of danger stalking the ground.

A boa constrictor poised to strike or just resting,
makes a story symbolic, fearful, interesting.

Butterflies and bees too, have their share of the scene;
fluttering, buzzing in disquise, discreet on the screen.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of all?
This wall mural tells and warns us before the Fall. ~

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Twin Forests: Models in Studying Forest Evolution

Dr Abe V Rotor 

Here are two paintings I started and finished together is a given time frame: a scenario of millions of years ago, while the other is a scenario of a fast vanishing ecosystem. They depict two stages of forest evolution, between them is a great divide of time and space. The primeval model is a rock face overgrown by bryophytes - mosses, liverworts and hornworts, while the other model (lower photo) depicts an undisturbed forest, remnant of the virgin tropical rainforest. These paintings grace the residence of the artist-author where workshops for children on Nature are conducted every summer. ~

Garlic is effective and safe pesticide

Dr Abe V Rotor

There's a universal belief that garlic drives evil spirits away. Well, 
this time it's insect pest that it will drive out of your garden.

Here are five ways to do it, entomologists (experts on insects) tell us.

1. Plant garlic among your garden plants, say mustard, tomato, pepper, okra, beans, and let it grow with them. Here is a caution though. Don't plant it too close to the crop so as to avoid its allelopathic effect (chemical secretion from its roots to compete with nearby plants).

Garlic serves as natural repellant of insects that would otherwise attack these crops, as well as ornamental plants. You can even harvest the bulbs at the end of the season. By the way, fresh garlic leaves are used in the kitchen like those of its relatives, kutchai (Allium tuberosum) and onion (Allium sepa). Try on fried eggs, batchoy and mami.

2. Hang garlic bulb on trellis and viny crops like patola (Luffa), ampalaya, cucumber, sitao, batao, and the like. Garlic exudes a repelling odor that keeps destructive insects at bay. Now and then crush some cloves in the open to refresh the garlic odor.

3. Make a spray solution direct from its cloves. The simple method is to soak crushed garlic cloves in water for a few minutes, then spray or sprinkle the solution on plants attacked by aphids, mites, caterpillars, and other pests. Adjust strength of solution to the severity of infestation.

Other than its repellant properties, garlic is also anti-bacterial and anti-viral. It could be for this that it was used to ward off the Bubonic Plague carrier - a flea (Xenopsylla cheopis) during the Dark Ages in Europe. It's no wonder people at that time believed in the power of this species of the Lily family in driving away evil spirits.

4. This is another method. Soak approximately 100 grams of chopped garlic cloves in about 50 ml of mineral oil (turpentine or kerosene) or cooking oil for 24 hours. This is then slowly mixed with 500 ml of water in which 20 grams of powdered natural soap (Perla or Ivory) has been dissolved. Soap serves as emulsion to make oil and water miscible. Stir the solution well and strain it with an old shirt or nylon stocking, then store the filtrate in an earthen or glass container and keep it in a cool, dark place.

This serves as mother stock, ready for use, diluting it one part to twenty parts of water, or down to one part per hundred. It is reputed to be an effective insecticide against most common garden pests. It can be sprayed or sprinkled liberally on practically all plants, including ornamentals and orchids.

5. Garlic is planted as "trap crop." In spite of its repellant properties garlic is not pest-free. There are insects that attack it, such as thrips (Thrips tabaci), flea beetle (Epitrix), white flies (Bemesia), and some plant bugs (Hemiptera). Just allow the standing garlic plants to attract these insects, thus saving other crops from being attacked by the same insects. Then rouge the infested garlic plants and burn together with the pest.

Garlic can save us a lot of money, and eliminates the hazard to health and environment caused by chemical insecticides. It is an ancient practice in the Fertile Crescent, Egypt and ancient China, a key to natural and sustainable farming and a balance ecosystem.

Let's revive this simple practice today.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Ecology Wall Mural brings Nature to our Home and Community

Ecology painting brings nature into our homes and communities to the delight of our children and folks, converts old and dirty walls into fresh landscapes with the ambiance of a park, if not the natural world.
Mural by Dr Abe V Rotor

Wall mural showing details depicts harmony of man and nature at author's residence in Lagro QC

Ecology painting records the conditions of the natural world, a good material for learning about the environment, its interrelationship with geography, natural resources and climate and their effects to daily life.

Ecology painting introduces us to Vuillard's painting of a park as a backdrop where students explore the social concepts of parks, embodying a character or characters in the painting from their own perspective.

Ecology painting brings us to the world of Winslow Homer, famous for his Breezing Up (old man sailing with kids) and A House in the Bahamas, where he painted and wrote on the simple and beautiful life on this island nation. 

Ecology painting teaches us drawing and painting from memory after close observation without taking photographs, notes or preparatory sketches, as in the case of The Quarry of Monsieur Pascal near Nantere by Jean-Charles Cazin. 

Ecology painting like On the Farm by Joan Miro'  teaches students of simple technology on how to collect rain ater in an arid landscape, an on-site and hand-on approach in learning art and its application to life and the environment.

Ecology painting leads us to experience the impact of technology on the countryside as depicted in the painting by George Inness of the railroad to the countryside in mid-nineteenth century America that envisions the impact of development in the past and in the future.

Ecology painting leads us to Jean-Jacques  Rousseau in the Jungle, not in actual setting, but imagined sceneries such as the Tropical Forest with Monkeys, a visit in nature's show windows from botanical gardens and zoos, to illustrations in books. 

Ecology painting re-creates the setting of the novels Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss and Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, and lately, the multi-awarded movie Cast Away. 

Ecology painting offers a balance to commercial art focusing on trade and commerce in the form of advertisements, billboards, and brings  to mind the importance of nature in a highly industrialized world.   

Ecology painting traces the early evolution of living things as depicted in fiction such as The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle, Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne, and Jurrasic Park, a movie directed by Steven Spielberg.  

Ecology painting "brings" nature into our homes and communities to the delight of our children and folks, converts old and dirty walls into fresh landscapes with the ambiance of a park if not the natural world.

Ecology painting invites our viewers to visit the old section of the EcoSanctuary of St Paul University QC: wall murals of a tropical rainforest, coral reefs, watershed, and mountain biome, painted by the author. ~ 

I Brought Nature Home

Dr Abe V Rotor

My Garden Pond at Home, wall mural by AVRotor, 2010 QC.
Closeup of Oscar fish

I'm with Nature reading the morning paper,
     whatever news it brings for the day;
I'm with Nature with brewed coffee piping hot,
     rising in mist, whiling time away. 

I'm with Nature, with a bit of the mountain, sea,
     of rivulets, streams and lake;
I'm with Nature, clouds rising on the horizon,
     white and dark, into rain they make.

I'm with Nature, the ocean spreading out
     in a grasp from shore to its end;
I'm with Nature, in the sky of deep azure
     birds fly free to heaven.

I'm with Nature, confined yet boundless,
     by lianas, the lowly bryophyte;
Dissolving the old prison walls and bars,
    that for years barred my sight.

I'm with Nature, from sunrise to evening,
     writing my life in a poem,
While Midas touches everything to gold,
     save where I brought Nature home. ~

Goodbye, Fire in the Fire Tree, Goodbye

Dr Abe V Rotor

The fire in the fire tree is being doused by the entry of the monsoon. This is a reprint from an older post in response to popular requests.

Fire trees (Delonix regia) in full bloom. UP Diliman QC

Rage with fire, burn the sky, bleed the heart,
Fire the kiss of life, fire the kiss of death;
And when your petals fall, so with your seed -
Fire the kiss of death, fire the kiss of life;
And beauty the brief passing of time and grief. ~

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Effects of Global Warming as Seen in a Crystal Ball

Dr Abe V Rotor
Global Warming in a Crystal Ball, acrylic painting by the author (circa 2000)

I see the world losing its symmetry, a disfigured globe with parts missing, displaced, losing its original shape; 

I see the world in layers and divisions heretofore unknown, threatening dynamic stability called homeostasis; 

I see the world fiery in many parts as volcanoes erupt in greater frequency and intensity, and simultaneously;   

I see the world in deceiving colors of blue, green, gray, yellow, spectrum of disaster on land, water and air; 

I see the world barren as deserts expand, farmlands turn into wastelands, shorelines swallowed by the sea;   

I see the world scarred by fault lines, and new cracks of the earth’s crust, triggering more and stronger earthquakes; 

I see the world in ruins where cities once grew into megacities, now virtually a jungle of concrete and steel;

I see the world pitch dark at night where there were more lights on the ground than stars in the sky; 

I see the world decimated of its once rich biodiversity, countless species endangered, others forever gone;

I see the world pitch dark at night where once there were more lights on the ground than stars in the sky;

I see the world decimated of its once rich biodiversity, countless species endangered, others forever gone;

I see the world “the glory that was Greece, the grandeur that was Rome,” with history repeating itself;  

I see the world with the frivolities of modern living giving way to the revival of a simpler life style;

I see the world rebuilding from its past like the mythical bird Phoenix, people of all ages and walks of life cooperating. ~


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Spontaneous Generation - Life Arises from Non-Living Things - Fact or Myth?

Maggots devour a whole carcass leaving but its skeleton.  These larvae of flies appear in sheer numbers as sudden as they disappear altogether.

Dr Abe V Rotor
One hot summer night following the first heavy rain in summer, swarms of gamu-gamu (gnats and midges) sweep into residential areas, attracted by light. They incessantly circle streetlights and campfires in frenzy and suicidal attack. Driving becomes difficult in low visibility, the windshield dimmed with their sticky bodies. The scene is one of Homer’s Iliad (the movie Troy), or the proverbial story of a moth meeting glorious death in a lamp. Toads and house lizards have their fill the whole night.  To other predators, it is a change in diet that comes once a year. So with some cultures that gather them for food. Winged termites are very rich in  protein and are claimed to have aphrodisiac property. Where did these creatures come from?  
“Thunder and lightning produce mushrooms.” Old folks would say and I believed in them when I was a child.  It is fairy tale come true. For indeed wild mushrooms inhabit rice straw, banana stalks, tree stump, bamboo grove, and termite mounds (punso).  To a mushroom hunter, imagine the amazement and joy of discovering mushroom colonies that could easily fill a wide brimmed hat or a woman’s skirt. That experience is relived, as I sometimes find mushrooms growing in the backyard after a heavy monsoon rain accompanied by thunder and lightning.    

Were lost cities like that of the Aztecs' in ancient Mexico the testimony of an epidemic caused by spontaneous generation of disease pathogens? 

One of the great puzzles in biology is spontaneous generation. Where do all these living things come from?  Here are some observations to ponder and research on.

1..  Annual plants like saluyot (Corchorus olitorius), kamkamote (Ipomea sp.), spinach (Amaranthus sopinosus), and gulasiman (Oleracea), spontaneously populate barren fields and gardens, growing  wild and thick like jungle, until a brush fire razes them to the ground as the Southwest monsoon leaves.

2.  Lately, five towns and cities in the country which include Valenzuela, north of Metro Manila, were declared emergency areas as Dengue or hemorrhagic fever spread to epidemic proportions. The resurgence of Malaria is also quite alarming in other areas, such as in Palawan. What really triggers an epidemic. Can these and similar diseases spread without their vectors?  If it is so, how could they spontaneously rise and infect people?

3. There is a story popular among children of the legendary Pied Piper who rid the city of Hamlyn in Germany of rats by luring them to their death to the sea. 

Bubonic Plague vector, Oriental rat flea (Xenopsylla chopis)
 It gives us a scenario of rats overrunning the city: rats in the homes, in schools, churches, on the streets, even in the most protected places like the residence of the mayor who promised him a handsome reward but denied after. I could only imagine the unbelievable rate of reproduction of the pest, although these were not rats but lemmings, which normally do not cause serious damage. Such incident linked to the Bubonic Plague or Black Death that killed one-third of human population in Europe in the Middle Ages, spawned beliefs that rats grow out of living and non-living things. Many of such stories survive to this day. 

4. Mad cow disease started in Britain in the nineties. It found its way to many countries of Europe, then to Japan and the US. Short of invading the whole northern hemisphere, the disease associated with human JCD Syndrome disappeared as sudden as how it appeared,  And yet in its country of origin, the prion, the causal material - a protein, resides in the victim and may take twenty years to reach the central nervous system.  
If prion is a special protein why does it behave like a living thing?  

5.  But the belief of spontaneous generation caused worldwide panic when an estimated 100 million people succumbed to the Spanish Flu virus whic in 1918.  Although the worse hit were the US and India, the toll was estimated to be one out of six people living on earth at that time. The most vulnerable victims were the strong and healthy.  The virus triggers the immune system that turns itself against the patient, so that the more resistant a patient  is the more he is prone to die of the disease.  Which leads the medical world to wonder why the very young and old had better chance to survive. Then after two years the pandemic just fizzled out as if it were a passing wind. Hence by 1920 virtually all cases  were closed.  Today the virus is kept alive in controlled laboratory condition for study.   

Theories arose, among them is that the virus rode of a passing meteorite before reaching the earth.  Or was it a prototype that mutated with indigenous strains?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Love the Mangrove (15 Reasons)

Dr Abe V Rotor

Mangrove reforestation attempt to restore the shoreline ecosystem in Guimaras after the oil spill disaster in 2006. To this date the ecosystem has not been restored.

I love the mangrove for building a natural wall against tidal waves and tsunami, at the edge of the sea; 

I love the mangrove for providing a nursery for fish and other aquatic life, weaning them to the open sea;

I love the mangrove for rip-rapping the shores and banks against erosion, and building soil in the process;

I love the mangrove for its rich biodiversity - flora and fauna, protists and monera - in chains and webs;

I love the mangrove for filtering the salt and dust in the air, and buffering noise into sweet sound; 

I love the mangrove for the legends and tales it holds - of fairies and mermaids, of pirates and treasures; 

I love the mangrove for its unique life cycle - self-regenerating, self-fertilizing, needing no cultivation; 

I love the mangrove for the countless valuable materials it gives, from timber, to firewood, tannin, to medicine;

I love the mangrove for keeping the surroundings cool, freshening the air, absorbing carbon in the air;

I love the mangrove for its mixed stand of vegetation by layers, making a distinct forest of its own kind;

I love the mangrove for being the home of migrating birds coming and going every season of the year; 

I love the mangrove for being the home of rare species, heretofore barely studied and identified;

I love the mangrove for its resistance to pollution, and ability to help nature's housekeeping;

I love the mangrove for its being a natural tourists' attraction, field laboratory, and educational center;

I love the mangrove for its humility and persistence, even in a most hostile environment; 

I love the mangrove for what it is, without it, there are species that cannot survive, humans among them;

I love the mangrove for being part of creation, for every living thing has a purpose on earth. ~

The Animal World on Wall Murals

Dr Abe V Rotor
 Owl - Night Sentinel: Wall mural by Anna Rotor St Paul University QC 20002
Doves - Early Risers:  Wall mural by Anna Rotor, SPU-QC 2000
Rodents at their burrow's entrance at dusk: Wall mural by Anna Rotor SPU-QC 2000
Red and blue parrots on their perch: Wall mural by Marlo Rotor SPU-QC 2000

Note: These murals have seriously deteriorated due to exposure of the elements, neglect notwithstanding.

Wildlife shrinking fast in the hands of man,
creatures orphaned, man looks up high;
forever gone are their home under the sun,
save some walls of art to remember by.      

"The Noble Savage" - Protector of Our Natural Environment

Who are the Noble Savages? Lacbawan MB Jr of St Loius University reports: they are nature-loving and pro-environment, living in a homogeneous community, in the hinterland or forest. Colonial portrayal as savages or barbarians, these indigenous people are actually the true and original guardians of the natural environment.
Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio 
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday

We must protect our mangrove and coral reef, two closely related ecosystems of the marine environment - the coastal mangrove of bakawan (Rhizophora) and nipa palm (Nypha frutescens), and the underwater fringe of the sea made of corals. Both riprap islands and continents.

Mr Fernando Ramirez (right) of the Foundation for Philippine Environment presents reference materials on environment to the author, after presenting his paper: Updates and Prospects on Biodiversity Landscapes in the Countryside. Mr Ramirez is a conservationist and a practicing environmentalist, an advocate of naturalism.

Dr Luis Carmelo L Buenaventura (right) of De La Salle University-Dasmariñas presented Socio-Arthropological Perspectives of Biodiversity, Conservation, and Local Governance of Coral Reefs and Adjacent Coastal Areas for Climate Change and Adaptation, and Mitigation - A Case Study of Barangay Balite, San Luis, Batangas. Dr Buenaventura and the author taught at St Paul University QC and DLSU-Dasmariñas

Man's role, socio-anthropological in approach, is crucial according to Dr Carmelo Buenaventura of De La Salle University Dasmariñas, Cavite, citing a case study in Barangay Balite in San Luis, Batangas. Destruction of these ecosystems leads to loss in biodiversity and predisposes the coastal area to tsunami and tidal waves.

Art and biodiversity. This is a paper of Prof Ma Sharon M Arriola of De La Salle Manila, bringing man to a higher level of consciousness - applied aesthetics. The way we regard nature reaches a point of respect and reverence. The landscape is Nature's ultimate stage on which life flows, our world changes in season, through time and space, and from it discover beauty which we then express through visual art - painting and three-dimensional art, other art forms notwithstanding.

Where have all the dolphins gone? Prof Marie Christine Merca Obusan of UP Diliman and DOST Bicol, presented models of detection and measurement in monitoring this highly protected marine mammal that inhabits or frequents the Tañon Strait. These models are also applicable to other marine life, and to an extent, land creatures as well.

Diversity and habitat of Holuthurians or sea cucumbers is a joint paper of six researchers from Cebu Technological University - Serapion Tanduyan et al. Referred to as leche de mere or trepang in culinary language, this passive sea creature is facing over-harvesting and loss of habitat. There are 20 species of Holothurians belonging to three families, which show richness in their diversity and distribution in the Camotes Islands comprising four islands.

Six researchers - one from Adventist University of the Philippines Cavite, and five from UPLB, jointly worked on Genetic Diversity, Population Structure and Molecular Phylogeny of Abaca (Musa textiles) which is important as baseline for proper management, conservation and genetic upgrading of this indigenous fiber plant that supplies 84 percent of the world's requirement. The paper showed that our abaca is considered genetically diverse. High diversity is desirable to this crop, and other crops and animals, for that matter.

Rana magna macrocephala or mountain frog responds well to La Niña, a climatic cyclical phenomenon characterized by unusual heavy and prolonged rainfall that often follows the dry and hot El Niño year. In the latter, the frog's population decreases as it either aestivates or migrates to a more favorable location as its temporary or new habitat. This finding was presented by Cruz V and G Vanaguas from De La Salle Araneta University.
Who are the Noble Savages? Lacbawan MB Jr of St Loius University reports: they are nature-loving and pro-environment, living in a homogeneous community, in the hinterland or forest. Colonial portrayal as savages or barbarians, these indigenous people are actually the true and original guardians of the natural environment.

Ms Juliet Borlon-Aparicio of Tanggol ng Kalikasan presented: Ensuring Protection of Environment and Biodiversity Amidst Sustainable Development. Ms Aparicio took up subjects in biology under the author at the UST Graduate School.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Mosquito – World’s Deadliest Creature - Q & A

Dr Abe V Rotor

Dengue mosquito (Aedes egypti)Photo taken by Mohammed Mahdi Karim 

Anopheles mosquito aims its needle sharp probosis to get through its host's clothing. Mosquitoes can live as long as 2-3 months and adults that hibernate can live as long as 6-8 months.

Virtually no one escapes this cosmopolitan uncanny vampire, that hardly a day passes without sustaining a surreptitious bite from it.

The mosquito follows wherever man goes, and oftentimes is even ahead in the frontiers.  Its is there in the polar regions of Siberia, marshes of tropical America and Asia, at the Dead Sea basin, 1,300 feet below sea level, and on the Andes and Himalayas.

They come in armies or swarms but are not true colonies like those of the bees and ants.  Swarming is just an accident of enormous population buildup concentrated in a local breeding area.

The mosquito changed the course of history.  When irrigation canals built by the Babylonians joined the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, a vast swamp developed and became infested with malaria.  It was here Alexander the Great and his powerful army lost - to malaria.

The mosquito has successfully defended the wildlife bastions such as the Amazon, the jungles of India and Africa, and the forest islands of the Pacific.  The development of the tropics - the mosquito belt - was retarded for centuries, and mosquitoes almost prevented the building of the Panama and Suez Canals.

The mosquito occupies a vital link in the food chain, being a major food source for fish and amphibians.  Fishes feed upon its larvae, the wrigglers, while the adults are frog's favorite. Man's dependence on fish, - which are dependent on mosquitoes in turn - places him at the apex of the food pyramid.  There is only one guarantee that man continues to occupy this position - if he is willing to shed blood for it. Without blood, mosquito eggs fail to hatch and without a sip once in every 25 generations, its particular generation dies out, thus breaking the food chain and toppling the food pyramid.

In today's modern living, with technological breakthroughs in pests and disease control, human encounters with the once dreaded mosquito have been reduced mainly to physical annoyance and "pesky" problems. This is not however, entirely true as we shall see later.

Here are some questions commonly raised about the mosquito, and their scientific answers to update our acquaintance with our old enemy and friend.

Q.  Do mosquitoes bite only warm-blooded animals?
A.  In general yes, but there are also species of mosquitoes that bite turtles and snakes.

Q.  Do all mosquitoes bite?
A.  Only the female mosquito does.  The regular food of adult, male mosquitoes is plant sap and nectar.

Q.  How are mosquitoes able to locate their suitable hosts?
A.  They have chemoreceptors - a combination of smell and touch - located at the plumose antennae and hairy legs.  These are sensitive to heat waves and odor emitted by the hosts.

Q.  Do mosquitoes invade places far from their breeding grounds?
A.  Yes, although they seldom travel farther than 1000 feet from their birthplace.  Mass raids have been monitored to as far as 50 to 75 miles away, the swarm usually riding on air currents.

The British named their bombers and reconnaissance planes in World War II,  Mosquito, so with the Italians for their anti-tank rockets – a tribute to the superb agility of this pesky minutia. 

Q.  What is the needle of the mosquito made of?
A.  Actually it is a sheath bundle of modified mouthparts, the equivalent of teeth, lips and whiskers elongated to form a drill, siphon, probe and guide and rolled into a needle or proboscis.

Q.  How can this tiny needle penetrate tough skin and clothing?
A.  It works on the principle of jackhammer with high frequency.

Q.  What prevents blood from clotting in the body of the mosquito?
A.  The blood, before it is sucked, is first thinned by the mosquito's saliva, which contains an anti-coagulant substance.  It has also an anesthesia effect on the host.

Q.  Is this the reason why we do not feel a mosquito bite at once?
A.  Yes, and probably the location of the bite is away from a nerve.

Q.  Why do  mosquitoes make their presence known by buzzing near the ear?
A.  This is not true.  They simply whine and emit short wave buzzing which is picked up when passing near the ear.  (Wing beat is 600 per second, and the cymbal sound-producing membrane vibrates nearly 7000 cycles per second.).

Q.  How do you recognize disease-carrying species from one another?
A.  Anopheles, the malaria carrier has its head, body, and proboscis in straight line to each other but at an angle to the resting surface.  It has spotted colorings on the wings.  Its wrigglers lie parallel to the water surface.    

Culex, the carrier of viral encephalitis and filariasis holds its body parallel to the resting surface.  Its scaly proboscis is bent and uniform in color.  Its wrigglers are slender and long with breathing tubes covered with hair tufts.

Aedes, the carrier of yellow fever, dengue and encephalitis, holds body parallel to the resting surface with proboscis bent down, thorax silvery with white markings. Its wrigglers are short and stout with breathing tubes containing a pair of tufts. They hang from the water surface at 45 degrees angle.

      When you see a mosquito resting, or wrigglers hanging down from the surface of a pond, use the above reference.

Q. How serious is Dengue fever?  How can it be controlled?
A. The disease threatens two billion people in 100 countries.  In 1998 alone, 514 died of Dengue in the Philippines with one death for every 100 patients who were mostly children. Metro Manila had the highest incidence with more than six thousand cases. Since the disease is specifically transmitted by  Aedes egpypti, the key to the control of the disease is the extermination of the breeding places of the mosquito vector.

Q.  Do mosquitoes follow certain feeding hours?
A.  Yes.  For example, the Anopholes or malarial mosquito bites chiefly in the evening and early morning, while the Aedes bites during the day.

Q.  How fast do mosquitoes multiply?
A.  In a year's time there may be from 15 to 20 generations produced.   At the normal rate of 100 eggs laid per generation, a common mosquito could spawn 31 billion descendants in six generations.

Q.  What attracts mosquitoes?
A.  They are attracted by the regular breathing, color and texture of clothing, and odor.  Dr. A. Brown of  the University of Ontario reported that the rate of breathing is the principal factor in attracting mosquitoes.  He also found that only one-tenth landed on white clothing than on dark or black material.  The texture most avoided is luminescent satin.  A person who has not taken a bath gets more mosquito bites. Try it.

Q.  What is the best insecticide to make our homes "mosquito- proof?"
A.  When DDT was not yet banned, 200 milligrams of the powder could give effective proofing from 6 to 12 months.  Dieldrin at 50 milligrams gives a three-month proofing.   Carbamates, like Sevin, are preferred.  Even if they  have shorter residual effect, they are safer to health and the environment.  Eucalyptus trees in the surroundings repel mosquitoes.  Now and then smudge the area by burning dried leaves of Eucalyptus specially in the afternoon. 

Q.  Do mosquitoes develop resistance to chemicals?
A.  Yes, through biological specialization, survivors from previous sprayings tend to carry on a certain degree of resistance, which could be passed on to the next generation.  Chemical control should be judiciously practiced to cushion this phenomenon. Return to plant derivative insecticide like pyrethrum, rotenone, nicotine and derris is highly recommended.

Q.  How does a film of oil on water kill mosquito wrigglers?
A.  When they stick their tails out of the water to breath, the oil slick clogs the breathing tube, thus resulting to asphyxiation.

Q.  If it is impractical to drain the breeding ground of mosquitoes, how do we get rid of wrigglers and pupae?
A.  Keep the water free from organic matter and scum which are food of wrigglers.  Better still, put some fish, like kataba (Poecilia) and Gambusia, to feed on them.

Q.  Do mosquitoes fight each other?
A.  They seldom engage in combat, but there are species, which have preying habits.  These are Toxorphynchites nornatus, T. splendens, and T. brevipalpis which were introduced into Hawaii, Fiji, Australia and Southeast Asia to control pest mosquitoes.  Their wrigglers are larger and larvivorous, feeding on the smaller wrigglers of other mosquito species.

Next time a mosquito comes buzzing around your ears, take the message seriously because it is the world’s deadliest creature.  More people have died because of its bite than all who perished in all wars combined.

The British named their bombers and reconnaissance planes in World War II,Mosquito, so with the Italians for their anti-tank rockets – a tribute to the superb agility of this pesky minutia.


Mosquito repellant from bottle brush (Salix sp)

There is a way to get rid of mosquitoes without mosquito net and other paraphernalia. That is, to apply skin repellant.

But the mosquito repellant that is advertised is made of synthetic compounds and there are reports that it is carcinogenic, affecting not only the skin but internal organs as well, since poison can be absorbed by the skin and goes into the blood stream which circulates throughout the body.

What then is a safer alternative?

Researchers from the University of Santo Tomas found out that the volatile oil of the weeping willow, also known as bottle brush (named after the form and shape of the leaves) is an effective mosquito repellant. The oil is extracted by dissolving the ground dried leaves with ethyl alcohol as solvent.

Results of the experiment showed that the extract is effective in repelling house mosquitoes (Culex pipens) with the same efficacy as the advertised commercial product. The result also validates the old practice of using weeping willow to ward mosquitoes by simply rubbing crushed fresh leaves on the skin. (Clemente R, Landan RP Luquinario MI and P Padua, UST 2002)

This simple extract preparation can be made - and used - at home. ~