If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.Dalai Lama XIV
Ah, the mosquito. Is there any other insect – any creature – more universally despised?* I don’t enjoy hating on things, but the mosquito is one thing I’m at least not particularly fussed about hating. So of course, I had to pick up The Mosquito: A human history of our deadliest predator by Timothy C. Winegard. It’s actually pretty incredible when you consider how much influence mosquitoes, or more specifically, the diseases they carry and for which they are vectors (e.g. malaria, yellow fever, dengue), have had over human history throughout the ages. According to Winegard, they have affected, among other things: the configuration of human DNA (sickle cell being probably the most commonly recognized one), the outcome of the American civil war, slavery, the history of the Roman Republic (the Pontine Marshes being a malarial sink, it both defended and destroyed the Romans), and more! They’re quite the equal opportunity bloodsuckers, so it’s not necessarily that they’ve always helped any particular side. Malaria also happens to be one of those diseases that constantly outmanoeuvers whatever anti-malarial drugs are concocted to defeat it, and at a frighteningly fast pace at that: new treatments might be effective anywhere between 2 and 20 years after being mass-marketed (Winegard). Interestingly, one of the newer treatments, artemisinin, is one that originated from what was rediscovered in an old Chinese text from the 4th century Jin dynasty, uncovered only during Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward, but not shared with the world until more recent times (and even then, the study results weren’t embraced by the international community immediately, according to Winegard).
Do mosquitoes kill more humans than humans do? Debatable, but they’re definitely not slacking on that front (not that humans are either…): the year before The Mosquito was published, 830,000 people died of mosquito-borne disease worldwide. Whether mosquitoes will outlast humans or we’ll decide to use the technologies we have at our disposal (e.g. CRISPR) to eradicate the Anopheles mosquito, which is one of the main vectors of mosquito-borne diseases, one thing is for sure: mosquitoes have driven human history and evolution throughout the entirety of our existence.
From our viewpoint, it’s probably easy to think we reside on a planet dominated by people, but Scott Shaw makes a good case to consider that we actually reside on a Planet of the Bugs! Shaw introduces us to insect evolution through the eras, describing how environmental & predation pressures played a part in how insects evolved, steadily moving forward and proliferating on their balanced set of 6 legs (for the most part). While I’m not huge on bugs – you can find me doing the hunched shoulders & slinking away manoeuvre throughout the summer when insects abound – this was a fun and informative journey to go on, learning about the advent of exoskeletons, how insects have taken over tiny and tinier ecological niches (how’s laying an egg only in a mature specimen of another insect sound for niche housing?) with different types of parasitism*, and more!
For anyone who has a deep dislike or fear of insects, here’s one way to learn more about them in a more multifaceted way and maybe discover something incredibly cool about them that will make them more approachable. (Or perhaps the bugs approaching you isn’t the issue so much as getting them to leave you alone?) Some other really cool items we carry are the Nature Backpacks, including one with a Creepy, Crawly Critters theme, that can help you get outside and explore the outdoors!
If you’ve been to the Kortright Centre since 2018, you may have noticed the StoryWalk panels along the trail showing you one page of a story at a time as you make your way along the path. This year, VPL is excited to announce that, in partnership with the City of Vaughan’s Public Works Department, VPL is expanding the StoryWalk offerings across the city!
With the province under the current Stay-at-Home order since April 17, hitting the trails is a great way to exercise outdoors while still staying in line with the lockdown restrictions. And what better incentive to get outside and explore the trails spread throughout Vaughan than the joy of discovering stories as you walk these paths? As you walk along the trails, you’ll discover one page at a time, until you’ve read a whole book at the end! It’s a fun, educational activity for the entire family that also brings the library to families during these times when we can’t visit the library the way we used to be able to.
While you’re out on the trails, why not check out our Nature Backpacks, which come with different themed activities, tools such as magnifying glasses or binoculars, books, and identification sheets, all in a backpack for easy carrying! And for the cyclists among us, don’t miss out on our Basic Bike Maintenance online program happening Thursday May 13 – just remember to register on Eventbrite!
The StoryWalks are being installed this week, and will officially be launched in early May to celebrate Canadian Children’s Book Week and Public Works Week all at once. Each of the five wards of the city will be getting a StoryWalk along a public trail, in addition to the one already at the Kortright Centre, so head to your local trail for some fresh air, outdoor exercise, and an engaging story that unfolds along the way! And of course, remember to use the hashtags #LoveVPL and #PlayVaughanLocal if you post any photos from your StoryWalks on social media!