Stubble: Tell me about the mosquito farms you’re selling outside.
Russ: Do you understand how mosquitoes work?
Stubble: I think a little bit?
Russ: This is about the third year I’ve made mosquito farms but only the first year I’ve sold them. I didn’t think anyone was actually going to buy them. Most people don’t know the life cycle of a mosquito! The female mosquito lays eggs on the water, and it’s got to be still water. They hatch and start feeding on algae. The larvae are called wigglers because they wiggle down. Algae is everywhere in the water, so they feed on that easily. They’re not like fish, so they have to come up and breath every once in awhile and get some air. They go down and eat and go up and get some air through their little breathing tube.
Stubble: I guess I didn’t know about the larvae. Can you see them in the farms now?
Russ: I don’t think so. I think all of the larvae are all gone by now and have turned into adults. And those adults are probably dead by now actually because I didn’t let them out.
Anyway, one way to get rid of mosquitoes – and they probably still do this in some places – but if there’s a big place with lots of mosquitoes they put oil on the water so the mosquito larvae can’t get their breathing tubes up and they die. Did you ever hear of that one?
Stubble: I don’t think so, actually.
Russ: It works pretty well. If the larvae don’t die before they mature, they float up to the top and emerge as adults. The female mosquitoes are the ones that bite you, the males are just bums who hang around waiting to mate and then they die – they don’t do anything except that. They have to have blood to make eggs.
Stubble: So where did you get the idea to make mosquito farms?
Russ: Oh, I don’t remember. I’ve seen ant farms and thought, well I have water out back that I use for plants and stuff and I’m always getting mosquito larvae in there so I thought ‘why not just grow ‘em in a farm’ so that’s how I guy started.
Stubble: Has anyone bought one?
Russ: No! Not a one. Unless it was a biology teacher I didn’t anyone would. It’s an educational thing actually, and some people get a kick out of it. I had this water container out back and it was terrible, I’d get bit all the time. So that’s basically it. It’s been fun. They’ve just slowed way down. I may get some more out there, I’ll make a new one. Anywhere there’s water they’ll be mosquitoes.
I got to tell you another mosquito story. Have you ever been camping and have mosquitoes bite you?
Stubble: Oh yeah.
Russ: I was on a bike trip way back, three of us went from St. Paul from San Francisco in ‘68. I think it was in Idaho, we went through Deadwood and the Teton Mountains. It was a dry desert, no mosquitoes, no problem. We hit this place at 8 in the evening, done and wasted for the day. We found this campground, a county campground with toilets and all that, so we thought ‘well this is great!’ and settled down for the night. Well, turns out it was a swampy area and right when it got dark you could just hear the bugs like a big engine coming towards us – it was as bad as camping up at the boundary waters. We couldn’t sleep! It was too warm to get into our sleeping bags and we didn’t have head nets and our tents were just plastic bags more than anything so at about 11 or 12 at night we thought we had to get the hell out of there. There was a town a few miles away, so we got there and split up and just threw our bags where we could. It was a nightmare place if you didn’t have protection.
Russell Mattson is the purveyor of Chandler’s Books in Stockholm, WI and the inventor of the mosquito farm.