"Who are these idiots? It's just a few mosquitos."

The evil mosquito
The evil mosquito

During the Norrland summer Paul Connolly dreams of crisp, cold winters where he's safe from legions of endless hungry, biting bugs, all intent on sucking his cheesy blood.

Skellefteå 19 juni 2023 09:00

I hate summer in northern Sweden. I don't like this current weather. I detest the combination of sunny skies, very warm temperatures and lots of lakes.

Why this hatred? Why do I shun summer and yearn instead for the comfort and chill of snow and -15 celsius?

The image at the top of this column has obviously already provided you with the answer: the mosquito.

Before we moved to Skellefteå a decade ago, my girlfriend and I had experienced mosquitos on holidays in the Mediterranean. It was no big deal - apply some DEET, and just enjoy your evening.

But the mozzies we encountered in northern Sweden were of another tribe entirely. These were Viking mozzies who attacked in squadrons, who fell upon me like Donald Trump would fall on a lie - hungrily and without caution.

They liked me more rather more than my girlfriend Donna, but even she was bothered by their numbers and ferocity. When we were house-hunting, Donna and I visited a lakeside house, surrounded by a dense canopy of trees. 

We were immediately overwhelmed by clouds of these ravenous bastards.

The mozzies assaulted us with such ferocity that their bites inflicted real pain - they actually stung. My decision to wear shorts, in retrospect, was ill-advised.

Meanwhile, the homeowner, who looked a little like the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards if he’d followed a career as a mechanic rather than as a rock 'n’ roll star, displayed a majestic indifference. 

As we dashed about his property, swatting and shouting, he leaned against his barn, took the occasional drag on his cigarette, and watched us with detached amusement. “Who are these idiots,” he seemed to think. “It’s just a few mosquitos.”

And this is the infuriating thing. At the next house – also by a lake and also alive with mosquitos – the real estate agent who showed us around was also blithely unconcerned with the swarms of biting bugs. Again, while we swatted, hopped and cursed, the agent leaned against a tree and tapped on his phone.

When we recently needed our car fixed, our mechanic watched totally bemused while Donna danced around his workshop splatting dive-bombing bugs hungry for her blood. He just didn’t get it. They didn't bother him.

Hardly any northern Swede I know is troubled by mosquitoes. Is it an evolutionary thing? Have people up here developed a resistance to them? Has their DNA subtly altered to ensure they don't give off a scent attractive to bugs (I've done my research, and they're hungry for people who smell a little like cheese - it's true!)? 

Sometimes when I walk around in the summer I often see people looking up above my head. They're transfixed by the huge cloud of mozzies, following me around, like my own weather system. 

When one of my daughters was a toddler and was bitten under her eye, the bite swelled up so much it looked as though she'd been punched. Her eye completely closed. It made me irrationally angry to see an insect bite do that to my little girl. Her sister is, like her mum, not as bothered as I am, but they still arm themselves with mosquito spray when they go down to our lake for some summer fun. 

But me? I stay in the house, periodically checking the insect screens are tight on the windows, like a homesteader in the old wild west making sure his house is secure against an attack from pissed-off native tribes. And, just occasionally, I let myself daydream of the blissful icy, insect-free, days of winter that lie a few bug-benighted months ahead. 

Paul Connolly is the editor of Norran's English site, norran.se/english.

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