Dear Handyman Leigh,
Every year around this time, the mosquitoes start hatching in droves, and they all seem to make a "bee"-line to my flat so that they can buzz around my ears at night like miniature helicopters, ensuring that I don't get a moment's sleep. I had one of those bed-encasing nets before, but once I took it down, it got all tangled up, and I never managed to put it up again, so I finally ditched it. I don't want to slather myself with that green liquid all the time or breathe the exhaust from the coils. What should I do?
—Once Bitten, Ready for War
Summer has finally started to arrive, and, with it, the mosquito: The insect that everyone in Chengdu loves to hate, or at least one out of a number of insects we love to hate. The male mosquito is harmless, but females are a different story. They come out at night, they wake us up by buzzing in our ear when we're asleep, they drink our blood, they leave us with itchy welts, and not even a sorry or a thank-you. Now that's just plain impolite.
Although Chengdu and surrounding areas are—thankfully—malaria-free, I still prefer to keep my blood where it belongs—safe inside my skin and carrying oxygen to my vital organs. It's time to make my apartment a vampire-free zone.
I used several cheap household items:
Spray bottle (the hand-pump kind)
A needle and thread
Tape (the wider, the better)
A few thin plastic bags
Screens are our first line of defense against tiny, winged intruders. Unfortunately mine were looking rather weak after our long, gray winter. By "weak," I mean that they were looking tatty and covered in dust.
First, let's get rid of that winter dust. Open the windows and fit your screens as neatly as possible in the window frames, then use the plant sprayer to spray through them with warm, soapy water. You might need to repeat this a few times. Is sunlight now streaming into your apartment? (If the answer is "yes," you're obviously not in Chengdu.)
Second—those mysterious holes that have appeared in the middle of the screen. How did that happen? I probably don't want to know. Fixing these involves some basic sewing skills. Thread your needle, tie off the end somewhere near the hole, and weave your screen whole again. Ta-da! I know it's not perfect, but it will be more than enough to foil our annoying little friends.
Next, let's look at the edges of our screens. Chances are there will be a few gaps at the edge of the mesh, and maybe also between the screen and the window frames. This is where the tape comes in handy. With some careful placement it should be possible to close off the edges completely—don't be embarrassed to tape the screen to the window frame. You probably won't need to move them until October.
Finally, there's one other place that might just be a door for tiny, flying diners. Do you have an air conditioning unit? Follow the piping to where it goes into the wall. Is there a huge gaping hole? We need to do something about that. Plastic bags. Stuff them in around the piping (just as you did with the space around your drains last month), and the hole is blocked.
That's it for this month. Once you squashed the ones who've snuck their way in as you read this article and implemented the advice contained within, your apartment should be free from mosquitoes.
Survival Mandarin: Mosquito-proofing
spray bottle 喷壶 pēnhú
dish soap 洗洁剂 xǐjiéjì
sewing needle 缝纫针 féngrèn zhēn
sewing thread 缝纫线 féngrèn xiàn
wide tape 宽胶带 kuān jiāodài
plastic bags 口袋 kǒudai
This 修ME好 article by Leigh Byrne was first published in CHENGDOO citylife Magazine, issue 33 ("What's going on in Chengdu"). Illustration by Judy Seto