Bug Off, Bugs

AKontheGO has neglected to talk much about the negative aspects of visiting Alaska, mostly because there are few things we don’t like about this state. However, with a hot, dry summer (from our perspective, anyway) we feel we must discuss something that has been literally, buzzing in our ears. The bugs.

Yes, when reading those travel books and magazines, there is a little section on wild critters, of which the mosquitoes and flies find a sentence or two. When we first moved here from the South, where bugs are as natural, and sometimes a part of, breathing, Alaska didn’t seem so bad. Let’s in fact talk about what bugs there are NOT in Alaska. There are no “no-see-ums”, no ticks, no fleas, and few spiders that are the size of your hand. But, we have the mosquitoes and flies.

If your travels take you to the deck of a cruise ship and occasionally to a portside attraction, you might not be bothered as much, and you can probably get away with using a lesser-strength remedy. But for those who are venturing beyond Anchorage and on into the interior of Alaska, it would be well to listen up.

The mosquitoes are pretty ordinary in composition; it is their sheer numbers that wreak havoc on the most seasoned camper and make life miserable for kids. The worst time of day is evening; the buggers come in swarms that are visible and tangible, and those suckers can bite through blue jeans and lightweight jackets. Advice from us? One idea is to simply wear as much clothing as possible during the early morning and evening house; jeans, socks, boots, long sleeves, and a hoodie or hat to protect little bodies. If camping, obtain a bug tent or net screen to shelter your picnic table, a big help in keeping bugs out of the cocoa. Those bug nets to wear on the head may look stupid, but they work, too. If you can get people to wear them.

In the high country and in hot, dry weather like we are experiencing this summer, the blackflies descend upon anything with a pulse. While easier to kill, the bite of the blackfly hurts, and again, the numbers are in the thousands when hiking or enjoying some high alpine wildflowers. Keep kids bundled up; AKontheGO Dad uses a baseball hat to swat the suckers and has gotten pretty good at it.

Keeping bugs at bay in Alaska requires some compromise; we too are all about protecting our kids while keeping them as chemical-free as possible, but, really, in order to keep from having welts the size of quarters on your kids, you might need to rethink the organic products. We really only use two things, depending upon the scenario:

1. Burt’s Bees All-Natural Insect Repellent. Made with lemongrass, citronela and soybean oils, this product’s main ingredient is actually castor oil. It works for mild mosquito days but does nothing agains those black flies. However, it smells much better than anything else and I try it first before going for the big guns.

2. Deep Woods Off. Sorry folks, but DEET (diethyltoluamide) is the ONLY thing that keeps biting flies and mosquitoes off of your kids without exception. There are various products made by OFF that include wipes, lotions, and pump sprays that won’t spray into eyes, noses, or mouths, which makes me feel a little better about applying it to my kids. The kicker w/ DEET is that in small amounts it can actually attract bugs, so using (gulp) more is better. Yuck, but that’s the way it is. We try to follow the rules of covering up and they spraying clothing and hats, rather than bare skin, which keeps the chemical out of direct contact.

There are products that many swear by, diets and vitamins that some folks take to ward off the bugs. Parents, you make the call. Experience may dictate what, and how, those skeeters are battled. Me, I’ll watch how I dress and spray strategically. So far, so good this summer.

For some creepy info about mosquitoes, visit Science for Kids; a lot of info and insight into the life of a mosquito. If you want to know that much. WHAP.

Posted in Logistics With Kids.