IT’S MID-JUNE. MOSQUITOES ARE ON A MISSION
A mosquito flies into a bar that has a cow, a goat, a pig, a human, a dog, a cats and a chicken sitting at the counter.
Which one is the mosquito going to target?
47.6 percent of the time, the blood-sucking mosquito is going for the cow, while humans are the target less than 5 percent of the time, according to a study conducted back in the 1940s.
There aren’t nearly enough cows in Alaska to feed our voracious mosquitoes, especially between mid-June through mid-July, when all 17 trillion of them in our state are at their most numerous and most voracious. A short breeding season and a short feeding season means they’re mosquitoes on a mission to reproduce.
The good news is that Alaska’s mosquitoes are not yet vectors for diseases like Zika or West Nile Virus. The bad news is, when we most want our arms to be bare, they are at their most determined.
Some facts about mosquitoes that you’ve been itching to know about:
Female mosquitoes have ovaries that need blood protein to produce the eggs that make more mosquitoes. They don’t get their own nourishment from blood — it’s strictly for the protein needed by the eggs. For their own energy needs, they sip flower nectar.
Male mosquitoes drink nectar from flowers; no blood for them.
Although numerous, Alaska mosquitoes are relatively small, especially compared to the 4-inch wingspan of the horror-movie-sized Holorusa mikado species, the largest mosquito family in the world.
Scents that attract mosquitoes include human sweat, limburger cheese, beer, carbon dioxide from breath, perfume, and feet.
What doesn’t seem to repel them? Eating garlic or ingesting vitamin B12. Studies show these have no effect.
To lessen the attraction to mosquitoes, it helps to bathe often and reduce body odors. Wear light-colored clothing; Insect Shield clothing is said to retain repellency for up to 70 washes. Use a DEET-infused repellant. Bring a net and gloves, like these hardy hikers in the Itkillik River did in this 2009 video:
Do electronic bug zappers work? Black light insect electrocution devices kill insects indiscriminately, unfortunately. One study showed that of all the insects killed, only .13 percent were female mosquitoes. There is no significant difference in the number of mosquitoes found in yards with bug zappers, vs. yards without them, according to the American Mosquito Control Association.
If you’re attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes, keep moving. They only fly about 1.5 miles an hour typically. If you can’t find shelter, try climbing a tall tree. A really tall tree. Mosquitoes don’t typically like to fly higher than 25 feet above ground.
If all else fails, take your cow hiking with you.