In Alaska, the mosquito is the state bird, or so the joke goes because of the size and numbers of the bloodsucking insects. The mosquitoes can get so thick hikers have been known to walk while swatting them away with branches from a tree. They can be extremely annoying. Swarms of mosquitos can be particularly bad on the North Slope of the Brooks Range. How bad? This bad:
The video from researchers Jesse Krause and Shannan Sweet shows the amazing numbers of mosquitoes they dealt with this summer as they worked at the Toolik Field Station on the North Slope. The accompanying photos posted by Krause on his Facebook page are downright incredible.
“The whole horizon is nothing but mosquitoes,” Sweet says on the video.
Krause, a Ph.D. student at the University of California, Davis, has spent the last four summers working at the Toolik Field Station, studying climate change in the Arctic and how the changing spring will affect migrating birds to the North Slope. This summer he spent 78 days in the tundra and the mosquito swarms were “the worst for sure,” he told Alaska Dispatch in a Sunday post.
Most researchers know what they’re getting into when they arrive at Toolik, but occasionally some people can’t handle the bugs, Krause said. If mosquito bites cause you to swell up for days on end, Toolik probably isn’t the place for you. “You better know whether or not you’re going to have that reaction before you go to Alaska.”
Krause has gotten used to the bites, though. “The first couple days, the first bites swell up. If you’re getting bit a lot, you react less,” he said.
They wear meshed head nets and other protective clothing, and apply plenty of insect repellent.
But what about those who are unprepared?
If tourists get a flat tire on the Dalton Highway on the way to Prudhoe Bay, they’ll get swamped by mosquitoes, Mike Ables told GrindTV Outdoor.
“They’ll have to put up with them for 40 minutes until they get their tire changed,” said Ables, the operations manager of Toolik Field Station. “It’s not going to kill them, but they’re just going to have to endure them.”
Others who are unprepared might start out on a hike but head back to the car five minutes later, unable to cope with the pesky insects, Ables said.
As for the protected researchers and the constant buzzing of millions of mosquitoes in their ears?
“The first year you definitely notice it,” Krause told Alaska Dispatch. “Then you get used to the nonstop buzzing around your head.”