How were mosquitoes protected a couple of hundred years ago? An Italian travelogue from late 18th-century Lapland paints a painful picture of the lice situation.
FINNISH STORES the shelves have mosquito repellents per meter, but that hasn’t solved the stabbing problem.
There has been an extraordinary amount of talk this summer about fighting. There have been two reasons for the great consideration: the unusually hard summer of mosquitoes and the so-called Thermacell debate.
Thermacell carburetors have been found to be so effective that concerns have been raised about their environmental impact.
But what was mosquito control like at a time when there were no Offs and Thermacells?
Stopping a contemporary description of the mosquito summer of ancient times is provided by an Italian explorer Giuseppe Acerbi, who got to know Finnish Lapland more than two hundred years ago, in the summer of 1799.
He traveled ashore from Tornio to the Nordic Cabinet in Norway. During his trip, he wrote a diary work in which he introduced the local nature and way of life. The sensational travel book attracted a lot of attention already in its time.
Acerbi made a lot of remarks, but one thing was repeated in an acidic tone: in Lapland there were an ungodly lot of spores, and they stung hard. There were really no means of control.
The worst the mosquito days on Acerb’s journey were wet and quiet days. They were perfect for bloodthirsty mosquitoes whose “famine victims” the expedition surrendered to at the heart of the wilderness.
When moving in the forest, the surest way to protect yourself from mosquitoes was to wear bare skin to hide. In his notes, Acerbi spoke of the Sámi sweating in the heat, who ensured with his thick clothes that the sufferers of the puncture could not reach the skin.
During the nights and breaks, Acerbi realized what was the best control method among the locals. It was smoke. The campfire burned through the night also inside the chamber accommodation.
By throwing ourselves almost in the middle of the flames, we got rid of the harassment of mosquitoes. Defeated by the smoke, they left us alone but besieged the shack so that none of us could go out without being subjected to the most violent attack., Acerbi wrote.
According to Acerb’s description at night the strongest flock of mosquitoes lurked at the door, but a strong auxiliary group was also around the smoke statue rising from the room. A few “bold patrols” also tried to attack the hikers despite all the obstacles, even though there was so much smoke in the combs that breathing was “just hard”.
After all, it is true that in war everything depends on courage, Acerbi comments on the attacks by smokers.
Acerbin Excursion to Europe (suom. Eero Saarenheimo) with its infernal mosquito descriptions is familiar to the natural science amanuensis of the Lapland Provincial Museum, a mosquito researcher To Jukka Salmela.
“I don’t know how much is exaggerated in it, but in old Lapland literature, these descriptions are always creepy,” says Salmela.
According to Salmela’s estimate, a couple of hundred years ago there seemed to be many more mosquitoes and barnacles than today. At the same time, when the means of protection were weaker than they are today, hiking in nature was often full of torment.
According to Salmela, for a long time the main means of protection was smoke. Industrial mosquito poisons did not become widespread until the 20th century. For example, peat, juniper or some other heavily smoky and easily accessible material was burned in the campfires.
“There was smoke all the time.”
Other tricks were getting in the mood and wearing the right clothes. The German soldiers who were in Lapland during the Continuation War even wrapped their faces in a kind of gauze to avoid stings. In addition, a messy, unhealthy and very inefficient natural product was used: pitch oil from the combustion of tar stocks.
Mosquito researcher Salmela thumbs up the right kind of dress.
“I’ve been to really bad mosquito sites, and I can’t help but survive.”