Las Chinches

Like the mosquito the bed bug is awakened by the carbon dioxide of a potential host. As I spend much time in my room at the hospedaje at Piura, Peru, which I realized rather recently is home to these creatures, my carbon dioxide has invited these tiny parasites to feed. Like the mosquito they prefer to feed in the evening and night hours and leaving one's light on does not deter them. They have a certain fearlessness when hungry and remarkable ability to sneak through small spaces and cracks. Like the mosquito, they are parasites that feed upon the host’s blood.

I have always hated the mosquito. The variety of mid-western North American mosquito I grew up with tortured me before biting with a buzzing in my ears in the darkness as I tried to sleep. The Argentine variety I have also encountered and it did none of the buzzing in the ear but instead a direct and fearless assault. Never have I encountered a faster more aerially agile mosquito than in Argentina. There they came in hoards, with thousands of them appearing from the fields upon you.
In Colombia and other northern parts of South American the mosquitoes are fast and do not alert you to their presence with the ear-humming. But they are fearful, anxious insects and only stop to bite for a moment before flying and landing again to bite. The North American and Argentine mosquito, in contrast, alights on the skin and stays until it has finished feeding, giving one the opportunity to smack and destroy it.

But the bed bug should bother me less. The bed bug does not carry any diseases such as the mosquito with its West Nile and malaria and river blindness. It also does none of the buzzing in one's ears before feeding. You are not aware of the bed bug’s presence until you begin to scratch yourself after it has fed.
But it is the wide red welts from their feeding that bother me. The bed bug takes in such a great deal of blood, particularly the mature bed bug, and swells to so large size that if you were to kill it after feeding you would explode it into a vast red, bloody smear upon your bed sheets. That amount of blood taken can be disconcerting. It is for me.

While the immature bed bug is crushed easily, turned into a tiny dark smudge, the mature bed bug when he has not filled himself with blood is difficult to destroy. His thin body is not easily crushed under a thumb or napkin or shoe and I have often seen them play dead waiting for me to leave. Still I should be less troubled by the bed bug as, before, unlike the mosquito he carries no disease. Also the welts though wide and unsightly stop itching and heal faster than the mosquito's bite.
Nonetheless, I am convinced that the idea of being assaulted by parasites from the air is much preferable to a ground assault. There is something about the slow, plodding, hesitant-less attack of the bed bug parasite that troubles me. The mosquito at least recognizes that it can be killed and at times will fly defensively. This recognition of its own possible death from feeding makes it a less disgusting parasite. The bed bug though is without fear or mercy. And it is this characteristic that can be most troubling for the human host.

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