In Alaska, during mid-to late-June, there is no escape from the buzzing mosquitoes and painful bites.
According to Kenai Peninsula experts, the issue cannot be avoided.
Janice Chumley, with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service’s Integrated Pest Management, said the number of mosquitoes outside is not strange for this time of year.
“It is not abnormal at all,” Chumley said. “This is just a regular occurrence of mosquitoes.”
Some years the mosquito populations are not as strong due to the varied winter temperatures. Chumley said this year the mosquitoes successfully overwintered and are now ready to feed.
“This is going to be a buggy one,” she said.
The female mosquitoes are the one who feed on blood. Those bites result in itchy bumps that appear after mosquitoes use their mouthparts to puncture the skin and feed. Most bites are harmless, but occasionally the area can swell, be sore and red.
According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website, to date, Alaska has yet to record a human or animal case of locally-acquired West Nile Virus.
Matt Bowser, entomologist with the Kenai Wildlife Refuge, said the species most plaguing the area, at least near the refuge in Soldotna, is ochlerotatus communis.
“We have clouds of them at headquarters,” Bowser said.
He said the species, one of 36 mosquito species in Alaska, is abundant in most northern regions including Russia and the U.S.
“It is around the world in northern latitudes,” he said.
He said the highest concentration of the insects occurs during the month of June due to their life cycle.
In the summer months, the eggs are laid on dry ground, mostly in coniferous forest, and then covered by snow in the winter. The eggs hatch with snowmelt in the spring. Adults emerge later in the spring and have only one generation per year.
“This is a cold loving species,” he said. “They are tough Alaskan mosquitoes.”
Bowser said the insect’s infestations usually taper off after June.
“So it is reasonable to expect that the situation will improve with a few weeks,” he said.
Until then, he suggests bug repellent and netting.
“You just live with them,” he said.
While there is no sure way to ward them off, Chumley said the best defense is a bug jacket, found at sporting good stores on the Peninsula or online. The item is usually made of netting or mesh.
“It just stops bugs from getting to you,” she said.
Another tip Chumley offered was to keep all standing water away from the home, including tarps or tires with pooled water.
“Any little area that will allow them breeding space,” she said.
She also recommends that residents and visitors wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts when going outdoors, even on a nice day. And for those dousing themselves in chemical repellents and products containing n, n-diethyl meta-toluamide, abbreviated as DEET, Chumley advises users to educate themselves on usage.
“It is a good repellent. They just need to read the labels and follow the directions,” she said. “They are there for your safety.”
Last weekend several area vendors sold completely out of repellents.
While bug jackets and DEET seem the most popular methods of repelling the insects, Chumley recommends users of other repellent methods such as essential oils and homemade cures be cautious. She said some essential oils can cause occasional skin irritations and homemade concoctions could do more harm than good to the beneficial insects.
Reach Sara Hardan at firstname.lastname@example.org.