What’s eating Chloë?

My December column for Viva Brighton on the subject of being eaten by a mosquito got me moved from the food section into ‘general interest’.

“Shhhhh! Can you hear it?”
We’re listening for a buzzing sound. For the past two nights I thought it was tinnitus brought on by loud bangs, or as NHS Choices says, a build up of ear wax.
“Did you hear that?”
“No,” says Mr, who actually has tinnitus. Why am I relying on him? “Why do you need me here?”
“That’s it! Turn on the light. Quick!”
Mr gets up at an infuriatingly casual speed and flicks on the light. A large mosquito is hovering a few inches away. “Get it!” I cry, blinking and grabbing at air. Mr picks up an unread Günter Grass novel and holds it aloft. The mosquito lands on the newly painted white ceiling and ‘thud’… he lowers the book to reveal a centimetre-long silhouette.
“Is it stripy?” I ask.
“I can’t tell.”

I’ve already called in support after finding the insect perched hungrily with its proboscis inserted in the cotton weave of my pillowcase. I have never seen a mosquito like it: so big it might be a crane fly but the bites on my upper arm say different. The creature has white bands on its long legs and looks so menacing I do what any smartphone user would: I Google ‘UK large mosquito’.

Up pops a Daily Mail headline: ‘Killer mosquito lurks in Britain’. Below this, a Mirror article dated Sep 2014 reads: ‘KILLER MOSQUITO INVASION REACHES THE UK.’ The photo depicts the Karl Lagerfeld of the insect world: an Asian tiger mosquito with its uniform-sharp, black and white suit and wispy limbs. Native to south east Asia, this serious biting insect transmits parasitic diseases, Dengue fever and chikungunya. The Mirror says they are “ARRIVED IN KENT.” This is not happy bedtime reading.

The morning after the killing I scoop up the mosquito corpse and place it next to a 1p piece. The bites on my arm still hot, I photograph it and upload to Instagram, copying in @SussexWildlife with a plea to help me identify it. “That’s enormous!” writes a friend, confirming it is unusual, but the more I look at the mangled insect, the less monochrome it seems.

Our bathroom got infested with cannibalistic harlequin ladybirds once. They were wintering in the Velux and each time one got squashed, it oozed yellow goo. I asked the internet then too, and my search returned a few nationalist websites. “The most invasive ladybird on Earth has arrived in Scotland…” read one; “…join the BNP now to battle trespassers, invaders and embryonic dominant species.”

Sussex Wildlife say my mosquito is “likely one of the 34 UK species.” I decide it must be a banded mosquito: one of the world’s largest, that has white stripes on its legs and is common in Britain. I ask Sussex Wildlife if they get many Daily Mail readers freaking out about ‘invasive foreign species’. “A few :-)” they reply, “…but it is a chance to explain the diversity in the UK.” Panic over then

Download Viva Brighton issue 22 here.

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About Chloe King

I'm a freelance writer, designer and webby type. I live with my husband and daughter in the south of England. I like to cook and can throw a good party.

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