Mosquitoes are buzzing in Southcentral Alaska in higher-than-usual numbers

This Anchorage mosquito did not survive the process of natural selection. (Nat Herz/Alaska’s Public Media)

Experts say mosquitoes seem to be buzzing around in higher-than-usual numbers in Southcentral Alaska this spring.

“I would say this is a high mosquito density year,” said Matt Bowser, who works for the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge as an entomologist, a scientist specializing in insects.

There doesn’t appear to be any methodical tracking of mosquito populations in the region. But based on his personal experience this year, Bowser said he’s going to be ready when he goes out for field work this week.

“Long sleeves, headnet, insect repellant and gloves,” he said.

Joey Slowik, an entomologist with University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, said he’s heard mosquitoes also seem to be more numerous in the Mat-Su this year — though after graduate school in Fairbanks, he’s not especially impressed.

“What’s bad in Mat-Su and in Anchorage is nothing compared to the Interior and the North Slope, so I don’t think it’s that bad,” he said. “But for a lot of people who have been here longer than I have, they tell me it’s bad.”

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Bowser said that while it’s not a perfect predictor, bad mosquito years tend to come after winters with a lot of snow. That’s because one of Alaska’s most common species of mosquitoes — the snowpool mosquito — lay eggs in depressions that later fill with snowmelt water.

The good news? Only one generation of these mosquitoes is born each year.

“They will die away as these females mature and more of them get swatted,” Bowser said. “There are no more coming on this year — that’s it.”

In Spenard last week, Mariah Polk was out on a walk in a swampy part of Spenard — and she validated the entomologists’ view that mosquitos seem to be out in force this spring.

Ralph Angasan III and Mariah Polk were dodging mosquitoes while out for a walk in Anchorage on Friday, June 25, 2021. (Nat Herz/Alaska Public Media)

“I don’t walk through there because the mosquitos are horrible,” she said, pointing toward a densely vegetated area. “They just attack me, you know?”

Those in the mosquito control business, meanwhile, attest to steady demand for their products.

At the Alaska Mill and Feed store in Anchorage, a manager said bug dope has been flying off the shelves.

And Robert Miller, whose Mat-Su based Mosquito Central business sells and repairs propane-powered mosquito magnets, said it’s also been a solid spring for him — as evidenced by the machines that he has running out in his yard while he’s fixing them.

“There’s days we come out and there’s hundreds of mosquitoes in each of the machines,” he said. “We definitely noticed it here in Palmer.”

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Nat Herz covers government, politics, environment and COVID-19 for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at nherz@alaskapublic.org.

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