Where in the hell am I?

Stories from the road, and home, by a contract archaeologist.

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Location: Texas, United States

I work out of town a lot as a contract archaeologist. Sometimes it's interesting. It can be quite funny, although probably only to other archys. Home is Austin, with my wife and our cute kitty and all of our crazy friends.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Today's lesson

So I'm currently in Pearland, which is a suburb (or maybe exurb) of Houston. The area we're working in is Missouri City, another sub/exurb of Houston. It is not in Missouri, of course. It is, however, just south of Sugar Land, which is well known as being the (allegedly former) home of Tom "the Hammer" Delay. (I'm not personally crazy about Wikipedia, by the way, but I'm a little lazy and not feeling like doing deeper searches).
The lesson is not about Tom Delay, but it is related to him, since Molly Ivins always made reference to the fact that he was a former exterminator. When we arrived at our project location, we were immediately swarmed by something in the neighborhood of 9,738, 261 mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes are a common drawback to doing archaeology. They like water, and most prehistoric sites are near water. They like grasses and natural areas, and that's where we dig. But today's situation was epic. It was worse that anything I ever had to deal with in The jungles of Belize.
I skimmed the Wiki article and learned a little bit (I probably would have learned more if I was a biologist, but shouldn't they already know??). Most mosquitoes have a life span of less than a month. The female mosquitoes, with one exception, are the ones who bite, because they require protein to feed their larvae. They are attracted to elements of the scent of sweat, but also to the carbon dioxide in exhaled breath. The one thing I didn't learn is what role they play in the "Circle of Life". I know that dragonflies and birds eat 'em, but are they the sole food source for anything? If all the mosquitoes in the world were to be eradicated, would it truly upset the delicate balance?
All I know is that covering my clothes in 100% DEET kept them from actually biting me, but sure didn't keep them from buzzing around me the entire time I was out in the field. I also know that I personally killed at least 50 of those damn things while sitting in the truck.


Anonymous Frank said...

When I was digging in Iceland it was near a large lake whose name, in Iclandic, means "Midge Lake". Midges are like mosquitos but smaller. Their bites aren't quite as bad but they tend to fly into your eyes and ears which is annoying. Since it was hard to dig w/ the mosquito net on I just put a bandana over my mouth (wild-west style) and it helped a lot. After reading your post I'm assuming it's because of the carbon dioxide not come directly out of my mouth. Very cool!

When I was digging in Manhattan we had a lot of rats! But I think I'd rather dozens of rats than millions of bugs.

2:35 AM  

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