Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Alaska's Mosquitoes

There is a saying that everything is big in Texas.  I'm from Texas, and I certainly admit to having some fun with that statement.  However, we did find that Alaska certainly has outdone us in one major area... mosquitoes!

A tribute to mosquitoes found in Delta Junction, Alaska.
Euphemistically called the "Alaskan state bird," Alaskan mosquitoes are in a league by themselves.  These things are huge!  They are about the size of a Texas mosquito hawk, only with shorter legs.  The only good thing that we can say about them is that they fly much slower than Texas mosquitoes, making them easier to swat.

While Alaskan mosquitoes may be slow, they remain vicious and merciless, particularly from mid June through July.  To give you a small idea of how terrible they can be, caribou above the Arctic Circle lose about a half pint of blood every day to mosquitoes in the summer!

While on the Haul Road, we discovered how relentless the mosquitoes can get.  We first became aware of the problem when we were stopped by road crews.  These poor souls wore mosquito helmets, gloves, and clothing that covered every square inch of their skin.  We quickly became alarmed at the swarm of mosquitoes entering our dropped driver's side window.  Our young worker explained that one of the reasons that the mosquitoes were so thick on the road was because our vehicle's exhaust attracted them.

He was right.  When we stopped to take a few photos and give Rox a quick break, the mosquitoes swarmed the back of the truck so completely that we could hardly get Rox back inside fast enough.  The mosquitoes were so thick that we actually worried about inhaling them.

To help deter the mosquitoes, we purchased head nets and a bed net.  We placed Magna screens on the Xterra's windows while sleeping (see http://www.magnascreen.com/).  Note:  To ward off mosquitoes, one of our readers cleverly placed netting over their entire rig!

We also used a very effective natural wipe called Smart Shield, a combination of sunscreen and bug repellent (see http://www.gofastandlight.com/SmartShield-SPF30-Sunscreen-PLUS-Bug-Repellent/productinfo/H-SS27650/).  While many prefer DEET, this natural product seemed to work as well (if not better) for us.

I recognize that mosquitoes with this density level tend to make us question God's miraculous ways.  Surprisingly, however, mosquitoes do play an important role in Alaska's environment.  Their larvae supply ample food sources for Alaska's abundant fish.  Mosquitoes are also important pollinators.

Who knew?

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