One of the concerns of anyone venturing into the arctic tundra-and rightly so- are mosquitos. Some call them the Alaska state bird, but that designation actually belongs to the Willow Ptarmigan. They do, however get quite large. Actually, the large ones are quite slow and stupid. They easy to snatch out of the air like a ninja. It is the little bloodsuckers that you have to watch out for. Though we have had quite a bit of cold and windy weather, that may have been a blessing in disguise. After a few warm days, the mosquitos are literaly coming out of the tundra. Moist soil and standing water is everywhere, and upon inspection, these pools are filled with wiggling larvae. There is an ongoing challenge here at Toolik. How many mosquitos can you kill with one slap? The record is in the hundreds. Each night lately, I have been diligently killing the little devils in my tent before bed. Note to self: keep the door closed!

bug suit
A full body bug suit is one way to escape the mosquitos

Apparently, mosquito season has only just begun, and will peak in July. The Bird crew that I spent the other day with has the claim to fame of putting up a short video of working conditions at Toolik that went viral. Jesse Krause, the star was even interviewed by the Huffington Post. Shannon now gets a small check from the proceeds of this video from last year. Check it out and help boost her earnings!

In terms of sheer numbers, I'm pretty sure mosquitos vastly outnumber the other lifeforms here combined. I wonder if anyone has calculated their sheer biomass. (Google?) I suspect they are pretty important ecologically-both as a parasite and as a food source. All these migratory birds need to eat some protein! the ducks and shorebirds are eating the larvae, the songbirds eating the adults. But he mosquitos take their toll. The caribou migrate north to the coast where they are not as thick, i've heard of moose submerging their bodies in lakes, with only their nose out of water to breathe. For humans, a bug suit is essential during peak season. It is with great sadness (not!) that I never got to experience this onslaught of bugs or even had to spend the entire day in my bug suit.

Arctic Circle
The mosquitos were so bad at the arctic circle stop, we had to put on our bug suits for even a few minutes out of the truck.

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Julia Fahy

How long do the mosquitos stay like this?

Peggy McNeal

Wow, that's crazy. I think Texas says the same about their state bird, but it's nothing like Alaska.