FAIRBANKS (AP) -- It's summertime and the living is itchy.
The season's first squadron of mosquitoes has invaded Fairbanks in full force, and residents can expect a summer-long assault after a cool, wet spring provided prime breeding conditions.
''The breeding ponds didn't dry up very quickly. We had plenty of standing water for these mosquitoes to breed in,'' said Marta Mueller of the Alaska Cooperative Extension.
Locals say the mosquito crop is as bad as they've seen it in years, in number and in appetite.
''They're vicious,'' said Jeff Labrenz at Labrenz Landscaping.
While the landscaping business has been brisk, Labrenz said mosquitoes are sucking away some of his profits.
''Every one of my (two-man) crews is going through a can of mosquito spray a week,'' he said.
On a scale of 1 to 10, Mueller pegged the itch factor at only 6, slightly higher than normal for this time of year. But if you ask Emily McGuire, a ranger's aide at Chena Lakes Recreation Area, the itch factor is much higher.
''I've lived here my whole life and I've never seen mosquitoes this bad,'' she said. ''A lot of campers have complained about it and left because of mosquitoes. They're real bad around the lake.''
McGuire staffs the entrance booth to the park. Though she works inside, she constantly battles mosquitoes.
''Every time we open the window they get in,'' she said. ''They never seem to die.''
Alaska has 27 species of mosquitoes, Mueller said. ''Everything from the big, slow-moving ones we have now to the small, zippy, aggressive ones we're going to see later in the summer.''
Different mosquitoes have different hatch times, which means there is an endless supply of reinforcements for those mosquitoes that perish in the battle against mankind, Mueller said.
''At any point during the summer there are mosquitoes that are looking for a blood meal to lay eggs,'' she said. ''There will be mosquitoes hatching throughout the summer. There's no respite.''
The best defense against mosquitoes is to cover your skin, Mueller said: long sleeve shirts, pants, hats and socks. After that it's individual preference whether or not to bathe your body in mosquito repellent, she said.
Some stores have been hard pressed to keep up with the demand of mosquito-mad residents. Rocket Surplus, a military surplus store, sold out its supply of 75 mosquito bed nets in a week.
''I've got more on order and they should be here in a couple days. I didn't think I'd sell out this quick,'' said clerk Heather Pence of the $24.99 bed nets.
Mosquito head nets at $9.99 have also been a hot commodity.
''I bought 150 head nets and only have 30 left,'' she said. The store is also low on bug repellent. ''We're all out of bug dope except the military stuff.''
A device called the Mosquito Deleto has also been popular across the street at The Prospector. The Deleto ''is almost like a bug zapper, but it runs on propane,'' Bye said.
The store has two models, a $199 version that uses a 5-pound propane tank, and a more portable $169 model that uses a smaller, disposable propane can.
''I've sold all the $199 ones and I just pulled down the portable ones,'' Bye said.
On Monday, borough parks laborers Scott Allen and Doug Cook were swatting mosquitoes as they loaded a lawn mower after cutting the grass at Griffin Park behind the state courthouse.
''They can't keep up with you but they try,'' Allen said, nodding toward the riding mower on a trailer.
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