Wisdom from rural Minnesota

Here is an important suggestion, if ever you should find yourself living in rural Minnesota.

Always roll up your car windows at night.

Wait, you say — that seems unnecessary. This is a trusting part of the world, where petty crime is rare, and people leave houses and cars unlocked all the time. Why not leave the windows down so that the interior is cooled by soft breezes in the summer months?

There are two reasons. Remember them.

  1. You never know when a rainstorm might flare up, soaking your car seats. This is a fairly minor concern, however.

  2. Open cars are giant insect traps. You have not experienced Minnesota until you’ve entered your car to discover it is full of enraged, starving, confused, and frantic mosquitos. This is particularly disastrous if it has rained and your cupholders are pools of water, because now they are also horny and want a blood meal so they can lay eggs in your car interior.

That is all.


  1. BlueIndependent says

    By the qualitative evidence presented, I feel it is appropriate to hypothesize that SOMEBODY here acted in accordance with said blog topic last night.

  2. says

    Ha! Definately, the mosquitos infest your cars at night so that when you get in you become fast food. I found that driving a short distance at high speed with all the windows open seemed to flush them out.

  3. Holbach says

    This is why Autumn is my favorite season; no mosquitoes, no bugs, no humidity, and you can leave your car windows open to just that cool crisp air. Of course let’s not rely on our fellow humans to respect open cars windows with all that stuff lying about. Then they will be more damn annoying than the mosquitoes.

  4. dubiquiabs says

    No, it’s not all at all. You forgot the most important reason why neighbors are rolling up the windows and locking their cars in July, August and September. It’s because squash and zucchini are getting ripe.

  5. says

    This reminds me of the warning we received vacationing in Vermont about 15 years ago – “Always make sure you lock up your car” Why? “Because the local farmers have been growing too much zucchini lately, and they don’t know how to get rid of it. They’ve taken to filling up people’s unlocked cars with fresh zuccchinis!” I don’t know if coming back to a car full of mosquitos or green squash is a scarier idea. Probably the mosquitos. There’s no comedy element there.

  6. Christianjb says

    I leave my window open in TX- and I’m happy to report that a gecko (or some such lizardous thing) has found its way inside my apartment a couple of weeks ago.

    It scurries about my walls with ease- and best of all- it hasn’t once asked me about my car insurance.

  7. MikeM says

    Rediscovering the joys of calamine lotion today, there, eh PZ?

    On our recent trip to Seattle and Yellowstone, our first leg was up I-5 and into Grants Pass (no apostrophe, and I have no idea why). We passed through Dunsmuir, CA at about 9:30 p.m. This is north of Shasta Lake and south of Mount Shasta, at about 3,000 feet.

    I have never encountered that many bugs, ever. It was amazing. I am absolutely not exaggerating when I say it looked like it was snowing outside. Just a constant barrage of what looked like locusts. We had to stop and clean the windshield; I literally could not see where I was going.

    You should have heard the noise.

    Anyway, here’s the kicker: One of them broke our windshield. I am afraid I’m not kidding.

    We had to go to the car wash the next morning before we could continue the trip. It was that bad.

  8. says

    ….because now they are also horny and want a blood meal so they can lay eggs in your car interior.

    What, you’re not willing to sacrifice a little blood so you can study mosquito development in your own travelling lab? What happened to the bold, iconoclastic scientist who once kept a cat’s head in the fridge for study? Or toss a few zebra fish in the cupholders to eat the wrigglers and you’ve got a mobile aquarium!


    (Says he, not volunteering to try the same experiment with Ontario ‘skitters…)

  9. says

    Yeah, dubiquiabs – I just saw your comment on the zucchini after posting mine and it made me look it up. I guess it’s a much more common phenomena that I was aware. Living in the desert most of my life, it’s not something I’ve ever actually encountered. The parts of this country with water are just strange!

  10. Jason B says

    LOL@produce bombings.

    Beware the summers here in AR for similar reasons. Living near the orchards, I’ve mare than once been the victim of a drive-by fruiting.

  11. Sastra says

    Yeah, well, in rural Wisconsin, we can render the mosquitoes blind and helpless, just by poking them in the eye. Use two fingers to get both eyes.

  12. 800guy says

    Try being on a motorcycle traveling the great river road during the mayfly hatch. I had to stop @ every gas station to wash the visor on my helmet. However it could have been worse, i could have picked the day the swarm was so thick it showed up on weather radar. Check link below:


  13. negentropyeater says

    Don’t forget that mosquitoes are reincarnations of the dead, who were condemned by the errors of their former lives to become these blood-drinking hungry ghosts (Jiki-ketsu-gaki in Japanese Mythology) ;-)

  14. says

    Had the same problem when I lived in Tucson a couple times, finding the car was occupied by mosquitoes on the drive to work, more than a bit annoying.

    Simply parked the car in the summer Tuscon Sun for the day. For some reason I did not have the same problem on the drive home.

  15. Scott Belyea says

    “The two reasons are rain and insects and … three! the three reasons are …”

    Rain and insects and animals (squirrels, raccoons, and black bears come to mind in my part of the world). Any of these can trash a car interior very quickly if there’s any food or food smell around. Never happened to me, but I saw a car that had been visited, and the upholstery on the seats and some of the soft trim was a writeoff.

  16. says

    I once did the same thing. I didn’t even realize it had rained the night before until my first stop signal when all the water came gushing to the front of my car.

  17. says

    I don’t know about Minnesota but I know of another good reason here in rural Maine to roll up your windows. Raccoons. Human theft around here may be uncommon but raccoons love to ransack any place they think there might be food or anything else of interest (like many animals they like shiny things).

  18. says

    This reminds me of a funny story. A college buddy of mine used to park his car on the street in front of his house in West Philly. Those who have lived in West Philly know that the street cleaning is totally nonexistent, and all the gutters are filled with an entire soil- and filth-based ecosystem. Well, thousands of ants colonized his fucking car!!! HAHAHAHAH!!!

  19. dubiquiabs says

    @ 15 & 17, Sastra & Neg..
    Watch it! Don’t mess with the State Bird of Minnesota!

  20. Sarcastro says

    A brisk run at 100 or so per with the top down takes care of it for me. Actually, that’s just an excuse. They get sucked out by the time I hit 30 but where’s the fun in that?

  21. caerbannog says

    Last year, my niece moved from southern California to Denver.

    One beautiful October afternoon, with the temperature in the 70’s and not a cloud in the sky, she left her car parked in the driveway with the windows down. She then went into the house (and forgot about the car). The next morning, she went outside and discovered that her car was full of snow.

  22. gaypaganunitarianagnostic says

    Mosquitoes, and wasps, and bumblebees, and cats…Never had a raccoon in the car, but in the utility room after the pet food just a couple of days ago

  23. janet says

    @26 Yeah, I used to have a similar problem when I lived in Massachusetts. I just couldn’t get it in my head that it rained in the summer. (Rain in the summer? That happens?)

    I’d love to see some rain right about now. It might put out a few fires and wash some smoke out of the air. But we probably won’t get any until September, at the earliest.

    Raccoons we got, though.

  24. Sonja says

    I once left my sunroof open (on a lake near Alexandria, MN) and, not only did we get a rainstorm overnight, but the May flies hatched out — and it was a peak year for them.

    The flies covered every inch of the outside of the house and were all over the grass too.

    Fortunately, although the car seats were wet, only a couple May flies had found their way in the car.

  25. jj says

    In Costa Rica I was always told, never lock your car doors, and never leave your window up. Why? You don’t want a broken window. Leave it open, and nothing important in your car, and worst case is you run into someone rummaging through your (rental) car. But then again, in Costa Rica in the summer, you can’t escape the bugs no matter where you go, I think even the mosquito’s know how to open car door, and you better believe it’s going to rain, there’s no escape from the moisture….

  26. says

    Here in the mountains on the edge of the California high desert we can add the danger of a Black Widow spider taking up residence. On a sunny day there is always the possibility of winding with a few hornets as passengers, hornets get annoyed really easily.

  27. riddlerhet says

    A grade school friend lived in the rolling hills of rural northern California (cow and horse country). After a sleep-over, her mom drove me home the next day. She cranked the A/C in her ancient Datsun B210, and before we were on the main road, a field mouse plummeted out the lower passenger side vent, onto my shoes. It was stunned and shivering. Luckily, the passenger side floor was also covered with a week’s worth of newspapers, so it was a simple matter to scoop up the stow-away and return it to the grass — fly, little mousie, fly!

  28. Hans says

    Have you people never heard of garages? They’re like bedrooms for your car. Google them, you’d be amazed!

  29. jj says

    “I have never encountered that many bugs, ever. It was amazing. I am absolutely not exaggerating when I say it looked like it was snowing outside.”

    I believe that’s an irruption (not eruption), had a crazy one at big sur last year of painted lady butterflies. Started as a mass caterpillar army, a few weeks later, you needed windshield wipers on full blast to drive down the 1.

  30. dNorrisM says

    I’m suddenly curious as to the Aussie word for mosquito.
    “Keet” is my guess.

  31. CrypticLife says

    In New York, the mosquitoes ‘ll cap you before you get the car up to 30.

    Well, not really, but it sounds better than saying the mosquitoes drag themselves around, half-crippled by smog and begging for blood handouts.

  32. jase says

    “Because the local farmers have been growing too much zucchini lately…They’ve taken to filling up people’s unlocked cars with fresh zuccchinis!”

    Really?!! Oh thank god! I was beginning to believe in a squash fairy…

  33. Muffin says

    I’m surprised your car’ll even be covered by insurance if you don’t roll up the windows and lock the doors, to be honest.

  34. Hairy Doctor Professor says

    I buddy of mine went got his M.S. in entomology at Oklahoma State. Before he drove off to get his Ph.D. here in New England a couple of his close friends slipped a tray of face-fly larvae under the seat of his pickup. They started hatching out about the time he hit Indiana…..

  35. Otto says

    Life in the big city has its points:
    I have seen only 2 mosquitoes so far this year in Minneapolis.
    Metropolitan mosquito control is awesome.

  36. Colin M says

    Oddly enough, another blogger I read offered same advice today for a completely different reason: raccoons.


    “This morning, as I was about jump into my contribution to the current oil crisis, I found a (wtf?!?!) raccoon sitting in the drivers side seat in my car, arms extended to roughly 5 o’clock and 7′oclock on the steering wheel, looking at me as if he were expecting me to ride bitch. A couple dazed and confused seconds later (should I give him my key, or does he have his own?), it simultaneously occurred to both of us that each of us was probably a threat to the other. And guess which one of us was blocking the only open window/escape route?”

  37. yttrai says

    Garages are for the snowblower and the tools. Driveways are for the car ;)

    But yeah, Yooper here, and i used to have to rush home from class as an undergrad on days that i got all the way to campus before my cat decided to wake up, crawl out from under the seats, and let me know he was in the car again. It was adorable…the first time.

    I presume it was him who kept the car free of vermin and flies :)

  38. cicely says

    *blink* Cat’s head in the fridge? Do I want to ask?

    And, Hans @#33….garages are for storing stuff. You know, things. Bicycles, boxes, equipment, miscellaneous…..stuff. I’m afraid the car will just have to fend for itself.

  39. mjfgates says

    Huge swarms of flying bugs are normal for this time of year, in the front range of the Colorado Rockies. I’ve driven through miller moths thick enough that I had to slow down to about 15mph– it was like driving in a blizzard. Probably didn’t help that it was after dark, on a Twisty Road.

  40. Kenny P says

    I still think the Minnesota Mosquitos would be a great nickname for a sports team. Their motto could be:
    We’ll Get You in the End!

  41. says

    Us urban Albertans usually don’t have to worry too much about skeeters (unless you happen to be within sight of a park, or any green area for that matter). The real annoyances are the yellow jackets, who feel about sweet beverages the way the Maasai feel about cattle.

    They’re not usually aggressive, merely hungry and curious, but if you’d rather not end up having a Vespula float with a twist of sting, it’s best to pour your juice or soft drink from the can into a clear glass.

  42. Ken Mareld says

    The damn little bugs are already awake here in Washington. I have a small welt on the 1st finger and on the thumb of my right hand. Since the one I mashed against the wall left a red spot I assume Mosquito. The biggest ones I ever ran across were in Wisconsin. Did Boeing get the idea for the 747 there? Small itchy welts are my usual reaction (Benedryl cream is a wonderful drug), in Mexico, I camped by a river in Baja California. I woke up the next day feeling a little feverish. By noon I was back in my sleeping bag getting hot and cold. I soaked the sleeping bag. We were 500 miles from US border. Eight hours from the paved highway. I stupidly insisted that we not abbreviate the vacation trip. The fishing was wonderful at Bahia Tortugas. The next day I felt great. Later when we got home I had my Doctor ck me for yellow fever and malaria. It came back negative. What was the bug?

  43. Ken Mareld says

    Correction: While I felt great (compared to the night before), I was weak as a kitten. My strength came back 2 days later, the normal mule that I am.


  44. says

    Concerning #2, would it be possible to hang from the rearview mirror a bugzapper, instead of one of those air freshening pinetrees?

  45. Candy says

    Thanks to all the flooding and excessive rain here in Iowa, the freakin’ little flying vampires are everywhere! The city susually sprays the neighborhoods in bad skeeter years, but if they’ve done so this year, I sure can’t tell it. Oh, well, my neighborhood was high and dry during the floods, and I guess I could have worse tribulations than a few itchy bumps, but I really loathe the little bastards.

    When I get out of this apartment and into a house again, I’m going to have about ten bat houses on my property. Bats can eat a lot of skeeters. Also, I’m just rather fond of bats, so long as they don’t invade my attic.

  46. says

    Heck, up here we worry more about bears getting into the car with the windows rolled down. But I will agree that Minnesota mosquitoes are enough to give any one pause!

  47. says

    What is this car thing you’re going on about? Is that that tonne of marginally recycleable rolling death thing spewing out noxious and global-warming gases? If so, why the feck do you have one?

  48. Paula Helm Murray says

    I think the Aussies call mosquitos ‘mozzies”. I think.

    Worst thing– I had a cat get jump in and mark my ancient Grand Am. When i finally sold it off to a teenager you could still smell the faint reek of cat pee on a hot day.

    Then there’s the bear that ate my friend’s car. She lives up in Colorado. Her moon roof broke and her ever-helpful hubby put a trash bag over the hole.

    Bear waddles by, goes, “Trash bag! = Food!!!” Falls in to car.

    Bear panics, tears up the interior, pees, poops and generally causes mayhem.

    Bear finally comes to its senses. goes ‘oh, that’s where I came in!”

    As it put his paws out on top of the roof and pulled its body out, well, 400 pounds of bear smashed the moon-roof tracks together. I think this was the final item of damage that put the cost over the insurance company’s “Totaled” level.

    Insurance agent, who didn’t have a code for it, finally itemized it as vandalism.

  49. Richard says

    I live in rural Minnesota and spend a lot of time hiking on the North Shore. I and a female friend went out hiking one summer morning after a rainstorm. We had two dogs with us: a German shepherd and a Yellow Lab. Ten minutes into the walk the shepherd did almost a cartwheel and rubbed herself and back in the dirt. By the time we got up to her we saw the problem: Both she and the Lab were literally covered in mosquitoes with the Lab’s coat literally crawling with them. Walking on the North Shore in some places literally requires a Tilley Hat with mesh. Never been to equatorial Africa but I have the sense that I’m prepared if the occasion arises.

  50. Bride of Shrek says

    #37 & #56

    We usually call them Mozzies but I’ve also heard Skeeta fairly often. In fact that’s Mr Shrek’s nickname for me, Skeeta, cause he reckons I’m always buzzing around, putting the bite on his wallet.

  51. dr. luba says

    Short Guide to Aussie-speak: slang terms are very often created by adding -ie or-y to the first syllable of a word. Thus sunglasses are sunnies, breakfast is brekkie, presents are prezzies, blow flies are blowies and mosquitoes are mozzies.

    As to further reasons not keep car windows open in the upper midwest, especially this time of year: blackflies. (Or, if you’re in the Australian outback, kangaroo ticks.)

  52. says

    Well folks, I think the drive-by zucchini-ing will be much less of a concern this year — Colony Collapse Disorder is doing in large numbers of honeybees.

  53. says

    Please be very careful of mosquitoes if there might be West Nile in your area. A friend caught it a few years ago, and the short and long term neurological effects are much nastier than is commonly realized.

  54. Lightnin says

    you’ve entered your car to discover it is full of enraged, starving, confused, and frantic mosquitos.

    Ahh yes, I’ve had the pleasure of that experience.

    I think the Aussies call mosquitos ‘mozzies”.

    Indeed, but we say it without the inverted commas. Some of the shortened version of words are used far more frequently than their longer cousins; for instance Uni virtually replaces University in casual discussion.

  55. Epikt says


    Have you people never heard of garages? They’re like bedrooms for your car. Google them, you’d be amazed!

    Hah. A garage is just a minor impediment to any beast with piss and determination in its heart.


    She cranked the A/C in her ancient Datsun B210, and before we were on the main road, a field mouse plummeted out the lower passenger side vent, onto my shoes.

    Three years ago, a collection of evil little field mice built a nest in the air-conditioning plenum in my car when it was in storage for the winter. I found out about that when I put the car back on the road in the spring and got a blast of something ferociously allergenic in the face. As in, eyes-swell-shut-and-throat-closes-allergenic. I spent several days wearing a filter mask, getting the plenum and fan out of the car, cleaning them and putting everything back together. The following winter, I surrounded the car with mousetraps. Didn’t do any good. The vile creatures built a nest again.

    The cat seems completely uninterested, and I’m at a loss. If any Pharyngulite has a suggestion for permanently discouraging mice that doesn’t involve a flamethrower, I’d be eternally grateful.

    Actually, scratch that last. Any suggestion, especially if it involves a flamethrower, would be just fine.

  56. daenku32 says

    It was the mosquitoes that caused all those Fins to move there. Reminds them of home.

  57. rp says

    Thanks, everyone. Not only am I sympathy scratching, I’ve been reminded of the mouse in the school bus’s windshield washer fluid (two weeks of ever increasing ‘What’s that smell?’ followed by a week of ‘Ewww!’)

  58. shonny says

    Much ado about innocent little mozzies (little is the operative word here).
    In northern Norway, like in Alaska north of Fairbanks, and northern Canada (and I guess in all northern Russia) there is the four-engined mossies.
    Like a bomber planes versus the fighter planes further south.
    And the number of them is usually in the zillions (as in ‘very, very many’), so much so that they can make you seriously sick if you are not protected.
    From what I vaguely remember the problem with so many is that the anti-coagulant they inject into you to draw blood poisons you.

  59. Nona says

    I’ve racked up three mosquito bites since I started reading this post. I think I managed to swat the bastard, though, unless more have managed to get in.

    For some reason, mosquito bites on my extremities– especially my legs below the knee– swell up like crazy and itch for days and days. I’ve had mosquito bites swell to the diameter of a coffee cup or bigger, and fade to a huge yellow bruise. Not fun.

  60. NRT says

    #59 Bride of Shrek
    “We usually call them Mozzies”

    Or “Fn @#&! little bastard” when they bite you!

  61. Jean says

    Ken M. (#50 & 51)
    I got a fever from bites in interior Alaska from no-see-ums. Standing in the stream, I was, I thought, completely covered head to toe: Hat, netting, bandana around neck, long sleeves, knee socks, slacks, waders, bug dope on hands and wrists – Sounds good right?

    Started getting feverish, went back to the truck and slept. My fishing buddies could barely wake me a few hours later – damn things had worked their way in between the bandana and the netting. Of course, no one else got bit, I was designated bug bait.

  62. says

    Open cars are giant insect traps.

    There’s some ambiguity there… are they large traps that catch insects, or are they traps that catch.. giant insects?

  63. Louis says

    Now normally I would not even attempt to compete with my American and Antipodean bretheren and sistren in the “annyoing wildlife stakes”, since in England the nastiest thing you are likely to encounter is a mildly irritated badger. However, on the subject of mosquitos I reckon I can hold my own as many years ago I went to school along the banks of the river Stour in Dorset, home to the infamous Blandford Fly. Google it, it is a nice unique species located only in that specific area, and Blanny fly bites can swell up like golfballs. It’s a beauty!

    Rwoing/canoeing into a cloud of Blanny flies is not a pleasant experience.


  64. Eliza says

    Louis, you forget about the midgies!
    Ok, maybe not so bad in England, but I have been eaten alive by swarms of the buggers in the Scotish highlands. Although individually they don’t pack as big a punch as the mozzie, they come in swarms of several billion, and despite being smaller than a fruit fly, the sheer numbers mean that any bit of exposed flesh (and plenty of unexposed flesh – their size allows them to gain access to pretty much everywhere) is covered with huge, itchy, red lumps within minutes. Not to mention it’s impossible to breathe without asphyxiating on them.
    My camping partner had a bad reaction to them, and seriously looked like someone had laid into her with a baseball bat. We were less than pleased to find someone hadn’t zipped up the fly-screen properly…

  65. rarus.vir says

    Alas, I am a wanted man in MN. I parked on the wrong side of the street while visiting Hedonotron, got a ticket which I never paid. How was I suppose to know they park on the north side of the street after November for snow routes. Crazy place.

  66. says

    BWA ha ha ha ha….
    My plan for Sb domination is working!

    *rubs hands together in evil glee*

    You other scientists can have your sharks with lasers… I have MOSQUITOES!

  67. says

    If any Pharyngulite has a suggestion for permanently discouraging mice that doesn’t involve a flamethrower, I’d be eternally grateful.

    Yes. They don’t like mothballs.

    For good reason though, they are kinda vile. But I’d take smelling funny over aniflactic shock (even if I can’t spell it).

  68. says

    [I]n England the nastiest thing you are likely to encounter is a mildly irritated badger.

    Kamikaze sheep?

  69. Longtime Lurker says

    “But what about bikes?”

    Sometimes, when I ride my bike to work, I keep my mouth open for the occasional cloud of gnats- free breakfast!

  70. Crudely Wrott says

    To deter mouses from setting up housekeeping in your Heat/AC system, discover where the air goes in and where is comes out. Block these openings.

    Pull the plugs before restarting the engine.

    You’re welcome.

  71. Epikt says

    Crudely Wrott:

    To deter mouses from setting up housekeeping in your Heat/AC system, discover where the air goes in and where is comes out. Block these openings. Pull the plugs before restarting the engine.

    Way too many places (not all of them accessible) to do that.

    You’re welcome.

    Thanks anyway, I guess.

  72. Epikt says


    If any Pharyngulite has a suggestion for permanently discouraging mice that doesn’t involve a flamethrower, I’d be eternally grateful.

    Yes. They don’t like mothballs.
    For good reason though, they are kinda vile. But I’d take smelling funny over aniflactic shock (even if I can’t spell it).

    That might be worth a try. Thanks.

  73. says

    PZ, thanks for the warning. I nearly died laughing. Truly, you are a benevolent Cephalopod Overlord, suffering to amuse your accolytes!

  74. CosmicTeapot says

    Oh the joys have having a wasp in your crash helmet on a motorbike. Then his friend came to play!

    Or the only time I’ve been stung by a bee was on the motorway at 70 mph.

    Then there are the big, night flying beetles doing 15mph, so they hit you at about 85 mph on the motorway.

    Having to put your helmet on after having been eaten alive by midges. And I was sun burnt too.

    Hitting a wood pigeon on the motorway. Not me, the lorry in front. All I saw was the remnants expanding. As the lorry passed, it sucked many of the remnants into the vortex behind it, which I had to pass through. It sounded like the gentle fall of spring rain. Didn’t look so good!

    Nature makes the dangerous driving of the BMW drivers pale into insignificance.