Summer in Alaska

Dear Faithful Readers (aka Ellen and Jesse),

I bet you think that a blog entitled “Summer in Alaska” will have lots of photos like this:

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and this:

 2014-07-04 19.56.26

and this:

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Or maybe you’re hoping it will be beautifully introspective like my northern lights post. In a way, you’re right because I am chronicling another of my Alaskan adventures, one that can only happen in the summer. I took this job and moved to a distant land to experience new places and new faces and have big adventures. I wanted to be challenged.

But of course reality has a way of looking different than one’s dreams. My biggest adventures have been doing new things and solving stupid problems by myself, like learning how to use a lawnmower (someone had to come show me), troubleshooting a water softener (apparently they work better if they’re plugged in), and using power tools (I called my dad and only made one accidental hole). I haven’t lived alone in a long time, and I’m accustomed to a support system. So my big adventure in rural Alaska has really been more of a social experiment than the cinematic experience I imagined.

Today’s post is about another Alaskan issue I’m trying to solve. Today I will write about what has happened in the 4.5 hours since I woke up.

I thought it was going to be a good day. I woke up, thought it was Tuesday, but then realized it was Saturday! I was delightfully sore from Friday’s workout, and Sligo was snuggled into my side. What a nice Saturday. There was a mosquito buzzing in my room, though, so I got up, turned on the lights, shoved my glasses up my nose, and went to swat it. I got one, but I could still hear buzzing. I killed 3 more mosquitoes in my room.

Then I went into the bathroom. Killed 2 more in the shower stall. At this point, I’m starting to feel like 6 mosquitoes in 3 minutes is unusual because I’m inside a house, and I don’t open my window (they’re so small they come in through the screens). I walked into my living room, and one corner of the room was covered in them. 8 mosquitoes all at once. Now I’m crabby, and I’m starting to think there’s a biblical apocalypse happening just in North Pole.

I stalk through the rest of my house, cursing, leaping, squatting, swatting, clapping, and grunting. All of this is made more difficult as my legs are essentially dead to me and worthless because of lunges and squats. Stairs are torturous. Sligo, bemused, follows me, but seems unperturbed at the infestation. I give up counting at 70 mosquitoes. They’re everywhere, and I’m upset. I check all the windows and doors, but none are open. At last, I make a final sweep through the house and don’t see anymore. So I decide to make some breakfast and regroup after the battle.

But mosquitoes that must have been hiding become attracted to the heat of the stove burner where I’m scrambling my eggs, and I end up burning my breakfast as I run around like a loon, clapping my hands and banging into walls. So I go through the house one more time, squishing errant mosquitoes as I go. I notice a spider this time, and I yell at him that he’s a bastard for not catching any of these mosquitoes. Sligo thinks I’m yelling at her and runs under the bed.

But by now (hours later), my wits have awakened, and I realize there must be a way to stop them at the source. They’re not coming in from outside, so they must be breeding in the house. Ew. Mosquitoes breed in water, so I dutifully check all the toilets, drains, bowls, glasses, and houseplant pots. It rained heavily for about three weeks, so I go into the crawl space under the house to see if there are any puddles. I can’t see anything that looks like evidence of mosquitoes, but I’ll admit I’m not sure what that looks like. At any rate, I move all the houseplants outside, I wash all the dishes (including Sligo’s water bowl), and I get the tape.

So now, as I sit here writing, all of my drains, toilet bowls, and the door to the crawl space have been covered over with packaging tape. I’ve killed 2 mosquitoes that came up here into the office with me. I hear a constant screaming whine in my ears, but I think that’s just psychological. At any rate, I believe I’ve killed the majority of the mosquitoes that have hatched, and I’ve narrowed down the places they could be living. In a few minutes, I’ll finally go buy propane for the mosquito magnet somebody lent me.

Tonight, if the problem seems unabated, I will erect my tent inside the house and sleep in that. It will be much easier to patrol a two-person tent than an entire house, and anyway, then I can learn if Sligo is good at camping.

Welcome to summer in Alaska. I’m going outside where there are fewer bugs.

Bonus material:

  • There are 35 species of mosquitoes in Alaska. 
  • Alaskan mosquitoes do not carry diseases.
  • Caribou have thrown themselves off cliffs to avoid biting insects (though I can’t find a source for this, so it might be an urban legend).
  • One etymologist estimates that the number of migratory birds that nest in the tundra would drop by as much as 50% if mosquitoes were eradicated.