Alaska Life Hack: A mosquito flies into a bar ... - Must Read Alaska
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Wednesday, October 16, 2019
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Alaska Life Hack: A mosquito flies into a bar …

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.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Mosquitoes, for those who like numbers:
    Alaska Magazine published a record mosquito kill some years ago. To qualify, the kill has to be counted as the number of mosquitoes killed under a single hand slap. Yes, larger hands are a plus. No, sliding a hand down a sleeve, or along a leg doesn’t count because, of course, the rolled and squashed bodies lead to inaccuracies in your counting.
    My personal record, on the banks of the Yukon was 38. I observed a count of 98 on the back of a friends headnet. And yes, it was no fun standing around with the far greater cloud buzzing in our ears.
    Alaska Magazine reported the record as 125 mosquitoes, if I recall correctly. I believe it was taken amongst the caribou in the far northern tundra.
    I’ve walked a fair amount of tundra and prefer the quantum level method for determining mosquito density. This is measured while walking. It is the number of mosquitoes captured in a single swinging hand grab in the air between shoulder and ear.
    If you can catch one mosquito with every hand closing, you are at quantum level one. And it is a very definite density of mosquitoes. One you can really feel it!
    If you catch two in each grab, it is a quantum increase that you also absolutely feel. At three and above I maintain this method works best because no one I know wants to stop, or even slow down to try counting mosquitoes.
    The most I’ve killed, repeatedly, in a single hand closing is 6.
    Full disclosure: I don’t like Deet, but it works. 30% is best. And the pushup stick, while hard to find, is super for targeted application on face, ears, back of neck, etc., while keeping Deet off hands and things it might dissolve, like glasses.
    However, I have to admit my wife is right: her Thermocell is far better. It is the best way to go Deet free!
    Bruce

  • Ed Plumb is a friend, known him for years, and the video clip tells no lie.
    A study was done a few years ago at UAF – it would take 184,000 mosquito bites to kill and “average” man – we can arrange for that. You can’t kill ’em all…
    Backyard UV zappers and “mosquito traps” attract more mosquitos. You can’t kill ’em all…
    Hand-held battery power zappers work great for the occasional buzz in your ear while you’re trying to sleep (if I hear one in the room I can’t sleep until it is silenced…). They put a dent in the outdoor flock and sound like a machine gun – fun… You can’t kill ’em all…
    Trees, really? Certainly not on the Itkillik! And none climbable 25 feet on the South Slope of the Brooks either… You can’t kill ’em all…
    Best mix of bugs and weather on the South Slope is the third week of July – and the blueberries are ripening then too. Just in time to breed next year’s flock… You can’t kill ’em all…
    I’ve seen a swarm around the weather equipment knock the “official” horizontal visibility down to 1/4 mile… You can’t kill ’em all…
    Sleep deprived and a little nuts… You can’t kill ’em all…
    Folks studying mosquito feeding habits – I’ve NEVER seen a mosquito feeding on flower nectar…
    You can’t kill ’em all…
    Male mosquitos don’t have a beak – if it has a beak, KILL IT. Kill it anyway – it isn’t worth trying to see if it has a beak or not… Wish we could, but you can’t kill ’em all…
    No where to run, no where to hide. You can’t kill ’em all…
    IF there are mosquitos in heaven, they will neither bite nor buzz in our ears… You can’t kill ’em all…
    Without mosquitos, Alaska would be heaven. You just can’t kill ’em all…

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