作者：欧达 译 来源：Newyorker 2011-08-03 16:54
Two or three times a month, Leslie B. Vosshall, the Robin Chemers Neustein Professor in the Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Behavior, at the Rockefeller University, is required to feed the subjects under inquiry in her lab. In order to do so, she rolls up her sleeve and inserts her arm into the netting cage in which the creatures in question, mosquitoes, are kept. It’s not unusual for her to get two hundred and fifty bites in a few minutes, she explained the other day, with blasé good humor.
每个月都会有这么两三次，来自于Rockfeller大学神经以及行为学研究实验室的Lesile B. Vosshall教授就要喂她的研究对象食物。她会怎么做呢？她会卷起他的袖子把自己的手伸进一个箱子里，这个箱子里养满了他们的研究对象，蚊子。她事后毫无感情色彩的解释说，对于她来说几分钟之内被咬250次其实很正常。
Vosshall is attempting to discover why some people seem more attractive to mosquitoes than others. “Some people are mosquito magnets—I think this has been reported anecdotally ever since there have been people,” she said. Vosshall herself is not particularly attractive to mosquitoes, unless she is sticking her arm into a cage of them. But last week, with mosquito season well under way, she visited Brooklyn to discuss the implications of her research for those New Yorkers for whom being made a meal of is an annual blight rather than a professional obligation.
First stop: the Union Street Bridge over the Gowanus Canal. Vosshall, who is a tall forty-six-year-old with long light-brown hair, was dressed boldly, under the circumstances, in a short black-and-white shift that covered her arms but exposed her legs. Native mosquitoes, Culex pipiens, are more likely to go for the face and the neck, she explained; it’s the mosquitoes that carry malaria, Anopheles gambiae, that like biting the feet. For illustrative purposes, Vosshall had brought along a test tube containing fetid water in which centimetre-long larvae frantically squiggled.
第一站就是位于Gowanus运河之上的联合街大桥。Vosshall这位46岁有着一头棕发的高个科学家穿着非常醒目，她穿着黑白相见的上衣，但是穿着夏季的短裤，因此她的腿是露在外面的。他说美国本地的Culex popiens蚊子更倾向于叮咬脸和脖子；而传播疟疾的Anopheles gambiae则更喜欢叮咬脚部。为了进一步讲清楚事情，Vosshall从英国带来了一个有大概1厘米左右长的蚊子幼虫装载一个实验盒子里，这些虫在污秽的水里快速的蠕动着。
She peered from the bridge down into the water below, where leaf litter floated amid iridescent patches of kerosene. The stagnant edges of the canal, she noted, might provide a good breeding ground, as would pools of water in the hollows of wooden pilings. “Mosquitoes don’t like water too clean—Poland Spring is not going to be attractive,” she said. The reported presence of fish in the canal would, however, be some deterrent. “Fish are predators, so if you are a good mosquito mom you are not going to lay your eggs there,” Vosshall said. It is a little-known fact that only female mosquitoes bite. “The males are peaceable—they feed on flowers,” she said, conjuring the image of billions of teeny-tiny Ferdinand the Bulls, idling the days away among the milkweed.
Next stop: the shady Fort Greene back yard of a writer who has been a magnet for mosquitoes since childhood. Having cased the joint for standing water—a single empty plant dish with an inch of liquid was found, and declared uninfested—Vosshall explained that there are numerous theories about what draws mosquitoes to one person and not another. “There’s something about the composition of the blood—substance X—that they can figure out,” she said. One study has shown that mosquitoes prefer to bite people who have been drinking beer over those who have been imbibing water. The allure of wine for mosquitoes remains, unfortunately, unstudied.
Vosshall dismissed much of the folk wisdom traded among residents of brownstone Brooklyn about effective mosquito deterrence. A fire pit? “You can confuse mosquitoes with fire, but it has to be a smelly, smoky fire—you can’t have one of those fancy hotel-fire displays,” she said. Growing lemon balm or planting marigolds? “People do use botanicals, but you have to have a lot of plants,” she said. She did endorse the use of the Mosquito Magnet, a device that first attracts mosquitoes by producing carbon dioxide and heat, then fatally sucks them up. “But it’s a little bit dangerous,” she added. “All the mosquitoes from far and wide will come, and you are gambling that they will be more attracted to the machine than they are to you.”
If you should get bitten, the most effective treatment Vosshall has found is to immediately run the welt under the hottest water tolerable. How this works is as mysterious as the logic of mosquitoes’ blood preferences. “The mosquitoes leave a protein on the skin, so it could be that the hot water cooks it, like cooking an egg,” she suggested. “That’s one idea. The other idea is that you are exchanging one form of pain for another.”