Monday, June 30, 2008


So let's get a couple things clear.
The only thing that works -- and the science types are unequivocal about this -- is DEET. (Yeah, yeah, Udder Cream, Avon's Skin So Soft, the sweat of a Mongolian ox. I've heard about 'em. Go ahead. You'll swat like the rest of us.)
Just as important to remember: DEET doesn't work either. At least not for long.
These little buggers come in clouds on northern slope of the Brooks Range. Nothing other than a stiff breeze seems to shoo them away.
Legend at Toolik Lake holds that the record for most bugs killed in a single slap to a buddy's back is 242 (or 247 or 272 depending on who's telling the story). It's at least plausible.
The best way to tell how long someone has worked here is to watch their reaction to the attacks. New arrivals douse themselves in bug dope, don super dorky head nets or prance about in the impossibly dorky bug shirt (imagine an entire garment made of the stuff of your tent screen). (Full disclosure, I fall in the middle category but would cash in my 401k for a shirt.)
More experienced hands can carry on conversations without pause while mosquitoes simultaneously suck from a half dozen spots on their face.
Walking in valleys and along streams is the worst. Standing atop a windy peak or hiking into a stiff breeze is best. But they're still worse there than at your worst summer picnic.
They are never gone. Not at lunch, not in the outhouse, not in bed.
Me, I'm striving for a bit of zen with the hordes. Want some O-negative, you little bastards? Come and get it. But beware, I've made a bloody pulp of plenty of your kin. As our president might say, bring it on.


Jody said...

Any black flies? No-see-ums? I'm thinking their bites can be worse.

The sauna will make any insect bites feel much better.

jen hoggatt said...

This is so wild. My husband and I were just in Barrow June 5 & 6. You may have been among the scientists we saw out on the ice as we were touring Barrow. We are fascinated and in love with Alaska. I got on the website because I wanted to write an article about some of the quirky things I observed while there and I found your article. I am jealous and my husband who is a meteorologist and wants to at least spend a whole winter in Alaska is probably more jealous that you get to hang out there for awhile! Any polar bear spottings yet?

Kentucky Bob said...

Just proves you didn't die and go to heaven. Don't go out alone. Last thing you want is to be the only fresh meal for miles around.