We've got it all here in Florida, and this isn't even a horror flick — car-eating sinkholes, monster storms, pythons in the wild, sharks in the water, alligators in back yards and pit bulls in trailers.
Now, Mother Nature is about to whack us with another little gift: gallinippers, the mother of all mosquitoes.
So named because they're said to nip a gallon of blood, these supersized mosquitoes could swarm across Florida this summer, according to those at the University of Florida who study the loathsome bugs. As if we don't have enough regular skeeters. And this is Lake County — you know we're going to lead the pack on this one.
As soon as the first rainy cycle hits, stand by. The gallinipper adores water, and the females lay eggs in dirt at the edges of ponds and lakes. They can hang out there for years, just waiting. When high waters come, they hatch. Last June, Tropical Storm Debbie unleashed untold numbers of gallinippers, and that's what makes entomologists suspect another banner year.
So, how does one recognize a gallinipper? First, take off your glasses. You won't be needing them. The creature is the size of a quarter — 20 times bigger than the average mosquito. When you see the family Chihuahua hovering over the dinner table, suspect rogue gallinippers. The body of the creature is about a half-inch long, and it's supported by hairy legs covering a zebra pattern. How attractive.
Females, who survive on blood, are vicious and have a bite that is said to feel like the stab of a knife. They leave painful welts, and they are notoriously aggressive.
Even in the larval stage, they are the terror of the pond. The ugly, wormy little critter has a mouth that has evolved to the point it can grasp and hold prey, and it will gobble down tadpoles and other mosquito larvae.
Too bad it can't be trained to attack only developers and politicians. To protect yourself, try a spray with a high concentrate of the chemical DEET — if you dare. That stuff is associated with insomnia and mood changes in concentrations higher than 50 percent.
Is this a wonderful state, or what?
Greeting cards go to Afghanistan
Two boxes of handmade greeting cards are on their way to Navy Lt. j.g. Laura Cook, a Tavares native serving in Afghanistan.
Lake residents showered Cook's unit, serving on the remote Forward Operating Base Farah, with goodies for Christmas, and some folks have kept the unit in mind.
One of them is Michelle Doherty of Clermont, who figured that the soldiers and sailors stationed there might appreciate cards to send to family members. There are no stores where the service members can buy such items.
"I just shipped two boxes to Lt. Cook. Our original goal was to put together 200 cards. My team of six ladies and I assembled and sorted out 487 greeting cards! Unless they have a huge contingent of forces at Farah, this supply should hold them for a while," Doherty wrote recently.
"Of course, we're hoping the troops will be home before those late fall and winter holidays arrive, but just in case …" she wrote.
Many folks have asked for Cook's address again, so here it is: Lt. j.g. Laura Cook, PRT Farah, FOB Farah, APO AE 09382. Her soldiers love cookies.
Lritchie@tribune.com. Lauren invites you to send her a friend request on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/laurenonlake.