Spring came early this year.
In fact, for a few days at the end of April, the North Slope experienced a dramatic temperature spike from the mid-20's up to and above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Everything began to drip and slush and flow at an amazing, completely unexpected, pace. That sort of thing doesn't usually happen until June.
Unfortunately, with early spring comes early thawing and hatching of about a kazillion mosquitoes.
Now, I can appreciate that mosquitoes have a place in the "circle of life." I can appreciate that many migratory birds feed on mosquitoes. And I appreciate that mosquitoes feed on the nectar of flowering plants and can be credited with some of the pollination of the tundra that occurs each year. I can even appreciate that female mosquitoes need protein for the development of their eggs. But I find it very difficult to appreciate being the source of that protein!
According to this article on Scholastic's website for kids, Ken Philip, an entomologist in Alaska reports that if you are on Alaska's North Slope with no repellent and lots of exposed skin, you could die from loss of blood within three hours! Although I can't verify the accuracy of that statement, my own experience with Arctic mosquitoes leads me to believe that Ken Philip has it just about right.
The movie The Snow Walker has been listed on my sidebar since the early days of this blog. Although the story is actually set in the Canadian Arctic, everything looks and feels extremely familiar. In one of the scenes, the main character, a bush pilot who has crash landed smack in the middle of the tundra in summer, tries to escape a swarm of hungry mosquitoes. I have experienced (many) similar swarms, but never without protection. I was amazed by the realism of that scene and can't imagine how they accomplished it. If you're interested, check out this great clip. There is a short segment in the clip that shows him trying to outrun the swarm. Of course, the movie shows more.
I'm including a little mosquito footage of my own. Though definitely not an example of high-quality camera work, it's what I have for now. It is difficult to see the LCD or manipulate the camera while hiding hands and every other vulnerable body part inside a nylon mesh bug shirt, but I just couldn't bring myself to sacrifice skin or blood for the sake of better video.