If you’re considering relocating to the Alaska real estate area, you may have heard stories about the region’s summertime mosquito population. A lot of what’s spread around by locals can be a bit of an exaggeration. How can you tell the difference between fact from fiction? The following is intended to help clear up any confusion you may have about the severity of mosquitoes, and why you shouldn’t worry about moving to one of the most beautiful states in the country on account of these summertime pests.
The Alaskan mosquito population, and the different types of species that comprise it (35 to be exact), are a unique part of the Alaskan summer.
During it’s summer months mosquitoes and their size and numbers can be intimidating for those uninitiated to the area, rest assured that things are often aren’t as bad as some people would have you believe.
Perhaps one of the most unique attributes of the mosquitoes in Alaska is that learning about them can be difficult. The mosquitoes in Alaska are so remarkable and can be such a nuisance, that they’ve inspired legends of their own.
The legends we do have left generally comprise the range of stories inappropriate to discuss with small children. Stories that our crazy uncle Pete told us anyway. In front of our parents. Before bedtime. While they begged him to stop in the tone of voice that raises an octave. Too bad. Uncle Pete was unstoppable, he could not be persuaded, negotiated. He would pull his phone out, show us the video to corroborate his story and we… we would not be able to sleep that evening.
This is the type of story you’ll read on the internet where Alaskan mosquitoes are concerned. You’ll find personal stories of giant mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds or softballs. You might even see a photo or two. Allegedly, these mosquitoes are so large they’re remnants of some forgotten part of our planet’s history. Some stories say that Alaskan mosquitoes are capable of spiriting away sled dogs. The dog’s yelps of surprise and terror that trickle into silence as it’s silhouette fades into the misty distance never to be heard or seen again. All that remains to be heard are the shrill buzzy hum of mosquito wings the only sound bouncing off the mountainous walls of the valley. These exaggerations obscure the truth however, and don’t adequately answer the fundamental question: How big are mosquitoes in Alaska, anyway?
If you guessed ‘around the size of a toy poodle,’ you’d be wrong.
When people think of large mosquitoes in Alaska, they’re generally thinking of a particular species known as the Snow Mosquito. The good news is most wintering tourists won’t really see these bugs out and about since they hatch, breed, and retreat early to mid-spring. While they are in fact large by mosquito standards, they are not large enough to make you worry about leaving your kids unattended for a few minutes.
Snow Mosquitoes are roughly the length of an American honey bee when fully grown, but not nearly as wide in body. Mild winters over the past several years have thinned their numbers since the bulk of their population survives winter by hibernating in the snowpack for warmth. With less of it the winter chill kills them, effectively lowering their numbers overall.
So if the Snow Mosquito isn’t such an enormous deal, why does Alaska have such a reputation for mosquitoes in the first place?
Alaska mosquito numbers
During the second week of June through the first week of July, the mosquito population explodes. And due to warmer, wetter winters the general mosquito population has grown substantially during those several weeks.
Arctic environments are by and large the perfect incubators for mosquitoes. Despite the cold, when the snow and ice and permafrost eventually begin to melt, left behind is a lot of stagnant water. The swarms of mosquitoes are so aggressive they’ve been known to chase herds of caribou into the sea. They can in fact, completely drain a caribou.
However, the intensity of mosquito swarms is negated by the wind, meaning running into a full blown swarm is extremely rare. It’s still a good idea to be prepared for whatever comes your way:
Here’s some tips on preventing mosquito bites while visiting Kenai, Anchorage, or just about anywhere you can find people living in Alaska.
BUZZ OFF – A North Carolina based company has created insect-repellent clothing. In fact, it’s the first form of insect-repellent outerwear given the stamp of approval by the U.S. Environmental protection agency. The repellent on the clothing lasts 25 washes and can be purchased through Orvis, LL Bean and other clothing stores.
DEET – Despite being a harsh chemical that can cause some issues for those with sensitive skin and can be absorbed into the bloodstream due to its potency is you’re greatest ally in preventing unwanted bug bites over the summer. While it doesn’t smell too strongly, you might be able to taste it through it absorbing through your skin if you use too much. It’s recommended that you apply it only to your hands, face, neck, and hair. Applying it to clothing is strongly recommended.
Time Release DEET – Sawyer Products offers a time-released formula for DEET. The DEET itself is contained in protein molecules that gradually dissolve on your skin releasing it overtime and exposing you to less of the chemical all at once. Travel Medicine’s Ultrathon, utilized by the U.S. Military contains 33% DEET, and works for 12 hours.
If harsh chemicals cause you concern, Citronella can be beneficial when trying a more natural alternative. There are many different herbs available to naturally block bugs or bug bites, but perhaps the most effective is Bite Blocker, which is an oil based repellent laced with soybean oil, geranium oil, and coconut oil. Whatever you decide to do, make sure it’s using at least 10% of the bug repellent chemical!
Avoid scented soaps, lotions or shampoos. Try and wear tightly woven cotton shirts and pants then synthetic material. Try and dress in neutral colors, or perhaps even khaki as mosquitoes can be especially attracted to darker colors, especially shades of blue. If you’re a day hiker or someone who plans on being out in the wild for prolonged periods of time, try and remember a head net for extra protection on top of all other precautions.
Alaska is a picturesque region to relocate to, and if the thought of their mosquitoes were once a deterrent to enjoying Alaska’s natural beauty it should not be now. Call your Alaska Real Estate Team at (907) 260-3000.