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LIFE BY LOUIS: City of vicious insects

Monday July 1 2019

In my village, we only had a breed of mosquitos that have long legs and elaborate wings. ILLUSTRATION| IGAH

In my village, we only had a breed of mosquitos that have long legs and elaborate wings. ILLUSTRATION| IGAH 

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Nairobi’s mosquitoes are more vicious than the village ones. What do they feed them on here?

In my village, we only had a breed of mosquitos that have long legs and elaborate wings, and our Biology teacher taught us that those big mosquitoes are as harmless as an early morning jogger.

I was shocked when I landed in the city the first day as a first year in a prestigious institution of higher learning located in the city centre.

The person who designed the prefabricated buildings that we were thrown into during our first year did not even make a provision for hanging a mosquito net.

Not that it mattered. Mosquito nets were a preserve of big tourist hotels in the coast and a few homes in the well treed suburbs.

The tiny blood sucking insects did not even wait for me to settle on the flat wooden bed that had a mattresses as thin as the soup of a thin cow.


The buzzing sound was incessant and specifically focused on my forehead that had just escaped the scorching January sun.


The effects were immediate. The stinging on my forehead and the back of the ears was incessant and painful.

I didn’t want to cover my head because I still had a lot of trust issues with my roommate whom I had met barely three hours earlier.

He could have been in organ harvesting trade for all I knew, and I was not taking any chances until my suspicions were proven to the contrary.

I woke up several times in the middle of the night to commit murder. I would spot the bothersome insects and follow their trail until they settled on the wall.

Within an hour of intense feeding from my forehead, the insects were bloated with blood and flying lazily around the room.

Without causing unnecessary disturbance, I would swat them against the wall with a pair of slippers until the walls became red like the scene of a vicious battle. Meanwhile the broken window sills to our room invited more guests that proceeded with the deadly feasting orgy.

Needless to say, the following morning my forehead resembled the surface of the moon marked with bumps and red welts where I had scratched myself in a vain attempt to wade the insects away.

Within a week, I was already immune to the small inconvenience caused by the blood thirsty vampires, and my only concern was why they insisted on feeding from my forehead that had little meat while they could feast all they wanted from my thighs and cheeks.

My nightmare with mosquitoes does not mean we did not have insects in the village.

If there was anything that was terrifying, it was waking up in the middle of the night and you sense, even before you feel, the famous safari ants in the house.

My “cube” where I slept in my late grandmother’s place was made of timber walls that had gaping holes.

The safari ants were therefore spared the trouble of knocking on the door when they wanted to pay me a late night visit.

Their appearance would be preceded by a dream of rain, then I would wake up and feel some soft ruffling movements on my skin as the ants fell from the walls and rafters.


It was a familiar sensation so I never wasted precious time on diagnosis. It was a very precarious situation.

The ants were aligned strategically all over the bed and on the skin waiting for a signal to strike, or for me to make a wrong move, whichever came first.

But I had to make a move because the ants are not only patronising my bed. They would be all over the hens’ coop and the rabbits hutch, and the offended domestic animals would be making all kinds of horrifying noises.

No self-seeking ants were allowed to just comes to eat our livestock without facing a fight.

So I would tense my muscles, remember one Jackie Chan martial arts move, summersault out of the bed and land on top of the table.

The next task was to look for clothes because junior elders like myself only slept with the junior trousers on.

The clothes would obviously be booby trapped with the fiercest ants, but life had to go on. I would grab one pair of trousers and shake it vigorously as I catapulted out of the room.

The manufactures of the current day insecticides would be put to shame by the kind of remedies I would unleash to chase the ants away.

A combination of salt sprinkled around the house, paraffin, some plants called Mexican marigold that smelled like a serious nuclear leak, burning rags, ash and physically beating the ants with a big branch. Finally, they would be on their way, and it would take me another two hours sitting on the stool waiting for the few but stubborn ones still feeling cosy in my bed to leave.

Finally, I would tuck in as it approached 5am, but I had to be up in a few hours to go on a revenge mission – look for the ants home nearby and dig it up, light a nasty fire inside and take a few prisoners of war.