Mosquitoes Bit First and Died Later

by Dr. John T. Manning


In the fifties, at Cape Canaveral Missile Center, I remember when I used to work an

extended day. Sometimes the days were sixteen to twenty hours long. I was working out

of Hangar “D” with the Army Ballistic Missile Team on the Redstone and Jupiter

missiles. This was several years prior to NASA’s takeover of ABMA. We were in a pre-launch

condition with a shortage of manpower; therefore, we all had to double up to provide proper

coverage for the launch.


My first after dark shift turned out to be an experience, just as dusk set in, so did the

mosquitoes. The swarms of mosquitoes were so profuse, they didn’t just bite, they

overwhelmed you. Mosquitoes would fly into your ears, up your nose, and into your

mouth. Those mosquitoes could bite through your clothes.


There were few resources available to counter the determined mosquito. If you were

around then, you will recall burning citronella rings on the dash of your car at the drive-in

theater. You had to leave the window down; otherwise the windows would steam up. This

was prior to air conditioning. There were even stories of cattle suffocating from inhaling

swarms of mosquitoes.


At the Cape, if you were in the good graces of your supply people, you might get a

mosquito bomb. The mosquito bomb was a carryover from WWII and the Korean conflict.

They were heavy metal pressurized spray cans containing the insecticide DDT. This was

long before we learned of the environmental dangers related to DDT. However, even if

you saturated your clothes, the DDT was only partially effective. The Cape mosquitoes

were Kamikazes; they bit first and died later.


In desperation the mosquito control people were called to send over a mosquito spray

truck. We opened the large hangar doors and let the truck drive through the hangar. The

trucks sprayed a mixture of kerosene and DDT on the hot manifold to create a dense fog.

I don’t know how it killed the mosquitoes. They were so huge they probably collided in

the dense fog and killed themselves.


After the smoke cleared and we were able to once again breathe normally, we returned to

the hangar. As we walked through the hangar everywhere we stepped, we left a greasy,

sometimes a bloody footprint, depending upon the diet of the mosquitoes prior to their

deaths. In fact, you had to be extremely careful, as the floor was very slippery. There were

so many dead mosquitoes we had to call in a motorized street sweeper to vacuum up the

mess and haul them off to the dump.


Article provided courtesy of the Central Brevard Mosquito Beaters, Memory Book 2001, available at the

Florida Historical Library, 435 Brevard Av., Cocoa Village.

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