Latest Airborne Scourge

Now that summer has officially arrived it’s no surprise there are a few annoyances tied to the season; the two leading the ‘annoying’ category are the mosquitoes and the tourists.  I’ve written about the latter ‘ad nauseum’; the ambivalence I feel towards the masses are shared by all the locals.  Tourist dollars keep Talkeetna healthy but to get those dollars we must deal with hordes of RVs, trailers, fifth wheels, campers and people strung out along Main Street.  The latest insults are those that feel it’s okay to walk down the center of the Spur in town and Main Street; they might move for traffic or they might not.  This is just plain irritating and more than once I’ve wanted to lay on the horn and give the real stragglers a good push but I’ve reigned in my frustrations and remained ‘civilized’ while waiting them out.  The only solution I’ve found to this point is to avoid going into the village as much as possible; without question we just surrender Talkeetna to the tourists from mid-May through mid-September.  More than once I’ve longed for an over-protective moose cow with a spring calf to wander into the village; the tourists are dumb enough to want to pose ‘up close and personal’ with the wildlife and that would no doubt winnow down their numbers!

However, by far the most annoying summer insult are the masses of mosquitoes.  There seems to be no end to their number but I have noticed an ‘evolution’ to their population.  In mid-April through mid-May they were mainly the large, slow-moving variety.  I’ve speculated these had to be carry-overs from the previous year given their size as there’s no way they could grow so large in such a short time especially as the night-time lows were still solidly freezing any liquid water.  I’m guessing these critters find a way to survive the winters maybe by hiding in decaying vegetable matter which gets covered with snow; the slow decay releases enough heat to allow them to keep from freezing solid.  Once the spring sun melts off enough of the snow pack they once again take to the air and begin the mosquito season.  By early to mid-June their numbers appear to dwindle; perhaps they are not built to live for two full seasons?  If this was the end of the story it would be great but sadly this is not the case.

They seem slowly supplanted by very small versions of themselves; I’d guess the smaller mosquitoes are maybe one fifth to one eighth the size of the large ones.  However, they are even more voracious and what they lack in size they make up for in sheer numbers.  Based upon their smaller size they also appear to have a number of advantages over their larger kin.  They are much harder to hear and its virtually impossible to feel them land upon one’s bare skin.  As such they are a real pain to keep at bay.  I’ve yet to discover a means to keep them from coming in on the dog’s coats which means I’ve now adopted a new routine.  Any time the dogs have been outdoors, regardless of duration, I keep them in the mud room for maybe fifteen minutes and then I enter with my trusty can of ‘Country Vet Fly Spray’ which has a fairly potent pyrethrin content.  I briefly brush the dogs watching for any departing mosquitoes and then give each of them a spritz of the spray.  The spray is approved for food surfaces and hence is not toxic although I’d prefer not having to use it at all.  Then I let the dogs into the main house, give them another fifteen minutes and start a ‘search and destroy’ mission.  Without a doubt I will find and kill at least five additional mosquitoes.

Even doing all this does not insure a mosquito free dwelling; I learned a month back that its wise to make a final pass through the main floor just prior to crashing with the same spray.  I give each corner and all overhangs a brief spritz of the spray before heading upstairs to my bedroom.  This pretty much guarantees I will get a good night’s sleep sans mosquito bites; in the morning I clean off all the mosquito corpses on the window sills.  Of course with each new morning we begin the entire process anew.  I’m just thankful I’ve discovered ‘Deep Woods Off’ which is the only product I’ve tried that keeps the outdoor mosquitoes at bay when I’m outside.  It is 25% DEET and while the substance is supposed to be safe when used as directed I still am not a fan.  But then I’m not sanguine with running the risk of exsanguination every time I walk outside either; given the options I’ll use the DEET.

Not that I needed another reason to favor the Talkeetna winters but this issue surely supports my love of the snow and cold.  I can deal with -25 F air temps by just dressing properly; the only way to attempt to deal with the hordes of vampire-like mosquitoes is to employ chemical repellents and cross one’s fingers.  Given the mosquitoes and the tourists I have yet another couple of solid reasons to yearn for the first hard frost…

12 thoughts on “Latest Airborne Scourge

  1. Your words reveal that you are becoming a true Alaskan….

  2. Hey Pete – THANKS!! It’s something I’ve aspired to since my first backpacking trip to ‘The Great Land’ back in the fall of ’96. I see you folks have cooled down a bit although to get that you’ve endured even more rain. Thankfully we’re just not seeing a lot of rain of late although the forecast highs in the upper seventies across the next four days are something I’m not looking forward to enduring. Plus our daily humidity has been slowly but steadily increasing over the last couple of months. Before long I’ll be faced with either running the dehumidifier and raising the inside temp or living in 70% plus humidity. When my buddy Sarge arrives in October one project is to port the exhaust from said dehumidifier outside; that will exhaust the heat to the great outdoors but leave the interior with drier air. I’m slowly learning the tricks to a comfortable existence up here! Now if I could just find a way to get the dogs inside without bringing in those darned little mosquitoes…

  3. Carl Eichten

    Long Lifespan Mosquitoes
    A few species of mosquitoes live for up to a year. This variety of mosquito is able to exist in arctic regions. During the winter months, they enter a state of extreme torpor, which is sometimes referred to as hibernation. The females mate in the fall, enter hibernation and awake to lay their eggs in the spring.

    Winter Habitat
    Mosquitoes with short lifespans lay their winter-hardy eggs in stagnant water that becomes frozen during the winter. As the ice melts and the temperature rises, the eggs hatch. Long lifespan mosquitoes take up residency in animal burrows, hollow logs and warm basements (or homes) before entering hibernation.

    Read more : http://www.ehow.com/info_8764249_do-mosquitoes-die-winter.html

    • Thanks Buddy! I knew there was no way those spring ‘monsters’ could’ve been born in the same year as they are huge. Thank God for ‘Deep Woods Off’!!!

  4. I loved reading your blog…Next on the list will be the biting gnats and noseeums! 😉 They are tiny but try not to breath them in…they come later…Then you will start seeing all of the bees and wasps! The wasps tend to be stronger in presence in August. They love dog yards, dumpsters, and any place that serves food! 😉 I live in Palmer and have lived in Alaska my whole life…thank God for the dragon flies and birds…can you imagine how many mosquitoes there would be if not for them?

    • Hello Sonya – Thanks for your kind words regarding my blog! I am just about to clock my first year living at Mile 7.1 of the Spur just south of Talkeetna; I absolutely love this state and it’s people!! I spent a decade traveling up here, mainly in September, from my first back packing trip with two college buddies in 1996 to a last visit to the White Mountains in the area around Nome Creek and Table Top Mountain in 2005. From my first view of the Mendenhall Glacier around Juneau in September of 1996 I was well and truly bitten by the ‘Alaska bug’ and I tried to find work up here for the next ten years to no avail. Finally, after assisting my folks through their final years, I was able to realize my dream of living in Alaska by enlisting the aid of a college buddy to drive a 26′ U-Haul van containing my household while I drove my Escape with my Alaskan Malamute (Anana) and German Shepherd Dog (Qanuk) the roughly 4200 miles from SE Michigan to Talkeetna. Based on my annual visits I had a tough time choosing between Homer and Talkeetna but the quirky nature of the latter finally won out. I’ve never lived anywhere but the lower 48 and always in an urban environment so living rural in south central Alaska has been a huge shift for me but I’m loving every second! This state is just amazing and I never stop marveling at the scenery, the wildlife, the people and the cultures. I make the drive to Palmer every other Thursday to pick up donated food stuffs at an Alaskan Food Bank warehouse located by the airport which I then haul back to the Upper Susitna Food Pantry in Sunshine for cataloging and distribution. Of course I stop off at Fred Meyer and Carr’s to get my grocery shopping done during one of those bi-monthly visits. Since moving up here I really have seen major changes in my perspectives and outlooks on life; I now take time to ‘smell the flowers’ and I am definitely living on ‘Talkeetna time’! I am impressed with the number and aggressiveness of the Alaskan mosquitoes; in the lower 48 I never saw mosquitoes when there was still snow on the ground but not so up here. I tried to encourage the local tree swallows to nest by putting up houses but I’m afraid the fresh varnish I applied in late April might have been too pungent; maybe by next spring it will have mitigated and the swallows will find them acceptable. I’m currently running my ‘Mosquito Magnet’ in the hopes it will break the breeding cycle and decrease the density of the local mosquito hordes. Not a fan of adding more carbon dioxide to the air but without it I really do run the risk of being exsanguinated if I venture off my screened in porch without bathing in ‘Deep Woods Off’. I’m hoping, as are most of the locals, for some early and solid freezes; that will discourage the mosquitoes and the tourists! Yuck, I’m no fan of gnats and I’ve dealt with noseeums in the lower 48; something to look ‘forward’ to seeing..? I’m already experiencing an uptick in the bees which I don’t mind although I’m no fan of wasps. I’m also struggling with the almost continual light since mid-May; I knew this would get to me and it has done that and then some. The darkness in winter doesn’t bother me one whit; in fact, now that I’ve experienced all four seasons up here I’d definitely give winter as my favorite. The beauty of the boreal forest shrouded in a couple feet of snow and appearing so crystal clear in the -15 F air is just breath-taking. And I think more than anything else I love the ‘immense silence’ up here especially in winter; it literally does have a presence all its own. All told I couldn’t be happier with my decision to relocate and I’m looking forward to continuing to learn about rural Alaskan living while experiencing all the wonders and treasures this majestic state has to offer! Keep up your blogging; I’ve truly enjoyed reading your posts…

      • I must say that even though the mosquitos are bad and have been bad this year…some of it might be due to the very mild winter we had this last year. Usually we get some heavier freezes and I believe that a good freeze kills off some of the bugs. HOWEVER…we always complain about the mosquitoes each year! lol I do know that I went camping up towards Talkeetna a month ago (Caswell Creek) and the mosquitoes were relentless and extremely thick. While mosquitoes are usually bad, they are not usually that bad! The last time I had experienced anything like that was when I lived in the bush of Alaska (Holitna River). I used to light a pic and keep it in the entry area to kill off the mosquitoes and I keep pic and citronella candles running all around me when out camping. I try not to use bug spray on my skin as I ended up with basal cell carcinoma on my face and I am trying to keep chemicals off of my skin. I use all natural products (no deet) and then the pic and citronella now. Make sure that you have that mosquito magnet a long ways away from you to draw them away from your area. I have spent a year in the Nome area in 1991/1992, so I know what your talking about there too. 😉 Do you have tin foil on your bedroom windows? My dad used to work nights when I was young and he used to put tin foil on the windows to block out the light. Well, good luck and try to enjoy what is left of the summer!

        • Hey Sonya – Just returned from your neck of the woods with a load of donated food products; tomorrow the Pantry will be distributing a lot of my ‘haul’. I really value ‘talking’ to someone such as yourself because you’ve grown up in this marvelous state and hence have learned so much regarding living with her ways. I hear ya regarding DEET; I hate putting the stuff on but what you described in terms of mosquitoes at Caswell Creek (Yep, I know right where it is around Mile 87 of the Parks..!) is what I deal with whenever I venture outside my screened in porch. If I’m just running to the car or something similar I forgo the the stuff but if I’m going to be outside working for any time or walking the dogs for 45 minutes plus I have to apply the ‘Deep Woods Off’ to my exposed skin. Thanks for the tip on the Mosquito Magnet, I have mine placed a good 75 feet from the front porch and I’m finding I must change the trap every day as it’s filled with the little blood suckers. Some folks put the loaded traps in their freezers but I just drop mine in a pail of water over night; that takes care of the ‘catch’.

          So sorry to hear of the basal cell carcinoma! Hopefully you caught it soon enough and were able to get it treated..? I’ve tried a number of ‘organic’ mosquito repellents and have had some luck with formulations based on lavender oil and peppermint oil; however, in the dead of the summer they just are not up to repelling the hordes of ‘skeeters that live in this area. Yes, I have a couple of aluminum foil coated cardboard inserts that fit into my master bedroom windows; I made them in late April and will be using them every summer from here on out. I also use some light blocking shades to really insure the summer sunlight is minimized.

          Wow, you have really lived in a number of places around the state! I would like to visit the Norton Sound area just for the history and the opportunity to do some bush plane travel. I’ve only been as far north as Coldfoot on the Dalton Highway; one of these Septembers I’m going to make the trip to the North Slope. I really want to see the area around Atigun Pass and the north slopes of the Brooks Range. I’ve been up and down the Richardson Highway between Fairbanks and Valdez and spent a few days in the McCarthy area; in addition I’ve traveled and camped along the Denali Highway a number of times. I’ve driven the Matanuska Valley many times and camped at a number of spots. I really liked the Kenai; the east side has great wildlife cruises and some good hiking while the west side has those amazing vistas of Cook Inlet and the volcanoes along the Aleutian Range. I’ve spent a bit of time in Kachemak Bay SP hiking and camping. I know a water taxi captain (Karl Stoltzfus) who operates ‘Bay Excursions’ from the Homer Spit; I’ve used him for years to get to and from the park. His family owns a magical cabin named ‘Timbers’ that sits on a sliver of private land surrounded by the park. Its front porch looks out over Halibut Cove Lagoon and I’ve spent hours relaxing on that porch watching the Bald Eagles fishing the lagoon. I’ve hiked to Grewingk Glacier from that site and I’m hoping to get back there and do the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ hike as well. There is just so much to do in Alaska!

          I intend to peruse more of your blog to search out those bits of wisdom that only Alaskans maintain; such knowledge makes my own settling into the rural Alaskan life that much easier. Thanks for sharing your wit and wisdom; enjoy the waning summer as well..!

          Bill

          • Wow! It sounds like you have done a fair amount of travel in Alaska yourself. I have only just started my blog (a little more than a month ago) and so am still figuring out what to write about. It is my very first blog. We are heading to Kennecott this weekend and I will be writing about that and posting pictures next week.

            I love to go on road trips…It sure sounds like you have been almost everywhere I have been and a few places I haven’t! hehe Thanks for sharing the info about Bay Excursions….sounds like a great trip! I’ve got a few friends over on the Ugashik River that live wilderness living and I have always wanted to visit them. And there are a few other places I would like to visit…Chicken, the North Slope (my husband has been there as a welder but I haven’t), and maybe Dutch Harbor…oh and Adak Island and Kodiak Island. 😀 Someday…

            • Yes, I’d love to get out to places like Dutch Harbor and even Shemya just to say I’ve been that far west but still in America. When I visited McCarthy back in ’97 we tried to get up to the mining area in Kennecott but we were told that was all private land and no tours were being allowed. I really wanted to see the remains as the imagery I’ve seen looks really awesome; maybe by now they’re once again allowing tours..? I’m trying to get to know more of the bush pilots ’round here so I can get more info on making some trips deep into Wrangell-St. Elias NP&P; I’ve heard so much of the land is pristine and if isolated enough the local wildlife show no fear of human beings because they’ve never before encountered us. I’d love to get a ride into some small lake completely surrounded by uncharted terrain and spend a few days just exploring, fishing for dinner and the like. About the closest I’ve come to such a situation was some back country camping in Denali NP&P back in ’01. I was in the bush during 9-11 and so knew nothing about what had transpired. I finally hiked back to the road and caught a shuttle bus back to my campsite at Teklanika; the bus was almost empty and no one said anything about the attack. When I left Teklanika and drove out of the Park I saw the flag at the visitor’s center at half mast but thought maybe someone prominent had passed. It wasn’t until I hit Wasilla on that Friday and bought a paper that I learned of the event. Getting out the following Monday was a real nightmare; the airport was a mess. While waiting in line I heard stories of people being stranded in the back country when the ‘no fly’ order went out. I’d also love to hike more of the Harding Icefield Trail which starts in Kenai Fjords NP by Exit Glacier; I did a few miles of this hike during a spring visit in ’00 and it had some amazing views. Had to look up the Ugashik River; that would be a true adventure! Maybe someday I’ll get to visit Dick Proenneke’s cabin at Twin Lakes in Lake Clark National Park. So many amazing places to visit..!!

            • Yeah, during 9-11, my dad was a pilot and had some issues with flying back home to the bush where they used to live (Red Devil on the Kuskokwim River). I know that he had a friend who happened to be in the air at the moment it happened and he had air force jets come up next to his 6 person airplane and ask him to land immediately with an escort and he had to land at Tyonek across the inlet, I believe. It was quite the nightmare for sure…I sat and watched it in Wasilla in pure shock…I was pregnant with my youngest son at the time. The Kennicott Mine has tours now and they have been doing a huge restoration that is taking many years. Last year they had some contractor come out and secure the mine with huge bolts pretty deep into the mountain side. The place has a lot going on and there is a lot of tourism based businesses. We just witnessed the McCarthy Whitewater Festival and hiked to the glacier…I will be writing a story up about it soon and sharing my pictures! 😉

  5. Hey Sonya – Thanks for the update on Kennecott!! I’m going to be adding a trip to McCarthy with a tour of the copper mine to my list of ‘gotta do’s’. I’d love to see the old mining town restored; I’d bet McCarthy is really starting to jump with the tourism. When I was there in ’97 they had just replaced the old hand tram for crossing the Kennecott River with a pedestrian foot bridge; I’d bet it’s really developing now. I do hope they keep it small and ‘personal’ as it was a quaint little town. I eagerly await your story and imagery!!

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