Posted by: littlehouseonthebigisland | July 23, 2014

Mosquito Coast

The problem with living in Hawaii, like winning the lottery, is that no one will ever feel sorry for you, even if you are having a bad day.  I could be standing in long pants and a t-shirt, in a hazmat suit using the hood plus a big hat on top, with socks and heavy rubber boots, and protective gloves, in the soft humid air, with any possible exposed skin 23503_1390490083577_2365269_nslathered in sunscreen and insect repellant and still be considered lucky.

Which was pretty much the way I had to dress for the first few years, when I lived on the Mainland and my husband and I were dating, when I would come over to visit.  Until I got more used to the mosquitoes.

All my life, I was more or less impervious to mosquitoes.  My daughter, if there was even a single one in the house, would not only get bit, but the bite site would swell up like a balloon and itch horribly.  Me, not so much.  In fact, not at all.  Sometimes I would get flea bites if our cat was infested, but that was about it.  So it came as a surprise when I first spent some time on the Big Island, to find that I not only was covered in mosquito bites, but that they itched horribly.  Little House is round, or rather 14-sided.  I would literally run in circles indoors, between bouts of clawing my skin raw.  There was pain and blood involved, but the itch was so bad, that it was actually a pleasurable sensation to override it with a purge of burning, stinging, frantic scratching.  I used a papaya ‘pen,’ fresh aloe, and even Benedryl which made me sleepy, but nothing it seemed, except desperate alternating bouts of running in circles and clawing brought any relief.

To my horror, I discovered that although I was indeed in Hawaii, where there are no snakes, where there is no poison ivy and no poison oak, by being on an organic farm in a cloud forest, at 2,000 feet elevation, closer to the Equator than anywhere else in the United States, I must be a shut-in, or cover every square inch of my body with poison, sunscreen, and/or protective clothing lest Mother Nature unleash her burning rays and hoards of biting itching insects upon me.

What finally saved the day, was that a colleague of my future husband sold Avon products, one of which was Skin So Soft insect repellant and sunscreen.  The lotion did not hurt my skin or smell lethal,  Even better, it kept me from being burnt and bit.  I still had to wear socks though, because the grass still irritated my ankles with little nettle-like slivers that itched almost as bad as the mosquitoes.  The same for long pants.  And if I were cutting tall grass, or even just trying to move through it, it was a good idea to wear a long-sleeve shirt or a sweat jacket, so my arms would not be covered in welts.  Plus add to all of the above, clothing stained and in probably torn condition, or soon to be that way, with my hair pulled back, with a big headband and ideally, a hat.

A few years ago, our very first woofers* told us how they had interviewed with another farm and turned them down.  They said it was because after a lengthy phone interview, the owners revealed that they were nudists.  Clothing for everyone else was… optional.  Besides the rather terrifying image that the owners might well be middle-aged and walking around naked, there were the direct, tractor-beam rays of sunlight, the raspy vines and stinging grass, and of course… mosquitoes to consider.  Not to mention, that at other elevations on the Big Island –not ours thank God– there can be enormous cane spiders, fire ants, a skin burning-fungus, and that at other farms the rainfall can be up to 180 inches a year, and woofers often bring their own tent for housing.

The good news is, I am now mostly immune to Hawaiian mosquitoes.  Time has made all the difference.  When they get bad, I still wear Avon, although not often.  But just the other day, I ordered eight of the spray repellant, and four of the lotion bottles because… at Magic Mountain Farm there are always visitors and woofers, and coming soon, we have two more dear and treasured friends who will be staying with us, as part of our expanding community.  I already know that even though the screens are all in good order in their living space, they will absolutely need insect repellant.  After all, like me, and all of our other friends, family, and woofers, they will be, at least at first, “fresh meat.”  And if they complain, like me, they will be told that the itchiest day living in Hawaii is better than the un-itchiest day living on the Mainland, or probably most anywhere else in the world, for that matter. They will not get any sympathy.  Not one drop.  Except from me, and our other beloveds, who have come here, and adapted.  Those who know that as wonderful as Hawaii is, everywhere you go, there you are, and if you are new, and you are here, you will be feasted upon by our mosquitoes, if you do not use the recommended protections that are available.


Fully slathered with insect repellant and sunscreen on the farm with one of my favorite people, my nephew Dov.


*workers on organic farms


  1. First thank you for the picture of dov at the end, second we have committed to the period of adjustment. We have our fingers crossed that we won’t drive you batty with pour red-headed sensitivity. We are much tougher than we look and we truly truly believe in the tradeoff of all the beautiful natural magic is worth any acclamation blues lol.

  2. Laughing at the warning. We have accepted the learning curve and the patience that’s a finite commodity. We are grateful for everything you do to help ensure everything and everyone is doing well. You are amazing and beautiful. We send our love to all. Extra thanks for the pictures. Lola and I both know that Dov is so happy there. He has our hearts to all.

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