In one of my trips to India I had a lifelong lesson in mosquito management. I had my first experience with mosquito nets while I was there. I was put up by a prestigious technology university in Mumbai my first week. I draped the rounded mosquito net all around the mattress and went to bed. It only took one night to realize that the proper handling of a mosquito net is to tuck it underneath the mattress all the way around because mosquitoes will find their way in, one way or another. Even small openings between the draped net and the side of the mattress were no match for a full night of random trying, incentivized by the warm CO2-breather on the other side of the net.

In my last week on this trip in India I applied all of my mosquito net skills but ended up taking the experience to a whole new level. The place where I was staying the last week was unfortunately located right next to a static body of water where mosquitoes love to breed. The mosquito net I was given on the first night wasn’t the draping kind like a princess bed, rather it was rectangularly shaped about the same size as the single mattress, with a frame to keep the rectangular shape and easily tucked underneath the mattress all the way around.

Early the next morning around 5 AM I was overwhelmed by the incessant sound of buzzing and what seemed to be a layer of mosquitoes covering the net all the way around, along the sides and on the top, with their proboscises poking through the net. I imagined they were waiting for me too brush up against the net, a fresh victim. It dawned on me that the frame of the net was exactly for that purpose, so that there would always be distance between the human and the mosquito. To have the sleeping inadvertently brush up against the net would have been a delight for the mosquitoes. I also thought to myself that the metal framing was there to hold up the sheer mass of the hundreds if not thousands of mosquitoes landed all around it.

As much as the rectangular net provided surefire protection against the invading swarm, the constant mass of buzzing was too much for a restful night’s sleep, and I requested a change of room. In the new room, the mosquito net was similar to the princess bed net from my first India week.

This net had a small hole in it. I calculated what I called the mosquito net half life. Given an entire night’s nonstop random-walk search that mosquitoes undertake attempting to get closer to their next meal—and have witnessed their apparent success with this strategy as evidenced by the bites with an untucked net during the first week, I defined the mosquito net half life as “the amount of time it takes, given a gap in the net, for half of the mosquitoes in the room to find their way inside the net.” I estimated the mosquito net half life to be about one night.

So here’s the trick for patching holes in a mosquito net. You take some tape and you cover up the hole from outside the net. Then you take another piece of tape identical in size and you patch the hole from inside the net. The two pieces of tape, facing each other, stick to each other and hold strong, blocking access. You tuck the mosquito net under the bed mattress all the way around the bed, you inspect the net to make sure all holes and openings—even the smallest ones—are completely patched from both sides with tape, and you arrange your sleeping posture so that even after tossing and turning you will never come into close proximity to the net, thereby dashing the hopes of the mosquitoes waiting fervently on the outside.

This leaves just one more tip. Move your bed and the mosquito net next to the light switch. When you go to bed, you leave the light on long enough to study the entire inside of the net to make sure that all of the mosquitoes that you see are on the correct side of the net—the outside. But you can’t risk exiting the net long enough to turn off the light switch, as this leaves ample time for mosquitoes to fly inside or to land on you while you’re outside so that you carry them in with you when you return to the bed. And with the light off, how will you find them? The trick I employed was move the bed near the light switch, then to do the lighted visual inspection from inside the net and then turn off the light without breaching the no-opening protocol.

I tried burning a spiral shaped slow-burn anti mosquito smoke product called Good Knight. This was supposed to either ward off, immobilize, or kill mosquitoes in the room, but it left an odd chemical smell in the air. This approach may have worked in a normal residential setting, but was no match for the industrial strength onslaught that we experienced nightly in this particular setting. Furthermore, this slow burning smoky coil would use up all of its fuel and extinguish itself too early. It provided some sense of protection as you went to bed, but was ill timed to provide protection during the actual feeding hour in the early morning twilight.

Kevin