Word on the street is that mosquitoes are far worse than normal this summer. But are the blood-suckers really out in full-force, or do we just have collective amnesia?
This summer is "not that unusual, although it's uncomfortable for sure," said Janice Chumley, integrated pest management technician with the Cooperative Extension Service in Kenai.
"We all like to be aghast" at the clouds of mosquitoes chasing us as we attempt to enjoy the outdoors, but that doesn't mean they are an worse than normal. "As humans, we tend to have short memories," she added.
There are 27 mosquito species in Alaska, ranging from Southeast all the way up the Arctic coast. "Mosquitoes are everywhere," Chumley said.
No organization in Alaska tracks mosquito populations, but Chumley has been keeping track of all things bug-related for the last 14 years.
Weather dictates how buggy any given summer will be. This winter provided great overwintering for bugs in Southcentral, with lots of late-season wetness and sufficient snow to protect eggs from being killed off in freezing temperatures. The late spring merely delayed mosquitoes from hatching without harming them, and once it warmed up, the bugs came out in clouds.
The biggest difference this year may be the unusually sunny weather driving people outdoors in droves with lots of bare skin. Anchorage-area residents may remember last summer as particularly grim, featuring the fourth-coldest July on record, and most mosquitoes aren't able to bite through a winter coat.
No matter how much or little you head outside, there are a few things you can do to minimize mosquitoes in your living space. Empty standing water around your home -- from spare tires to tarps with water in them. Make sure vegetation is kept to a minimum around your home, and mow regularly. "Those are really the big ones," Chumley said.
Besides that, wear enough layers and plenty of bug dope, especially when walking around in the evening and at night.
But once you are (inevitably) bitten by the maddening little buggers, there are loads of natural remedies, like milk and honey, to help soothe the itch.
Contact Laurel Andrews at laurel(at)alaskadispatch.com