Will Morrow (courtesy)

Will Morrow (courtesy)

Once bitten

Just keep moving.

For some people, it might be a mantra for living their lives. For me, it’s how I deal with mosquitoes.

I think mosquitoes get a bad rap. I don’t mean to diminish the risks of mosquito-borne diseases in other parts of the world, but here in Alaska, we’re fortunate that, for the most part, the worst a mosquito can do is make you itch for a couple of days.

Of course, that’s just the physiological effect of a mosquito bite. The mental torment that can happen when a mosquito finds its way to your side of the screen when you’re trying to sleep can feel like torture.

But as I mentioned, I think mosquitoes deserve a little more love than we seem to give them.

First of all, mosquitoes have been around for 210 million years. You might not like mosquitoes, but you have to appreciate an organism that once buzzed around the dinosaurs. I wonder if the reason that Tyrannosaurus rex always seems so angry is because he couldn’t swat away mosquitoes with his stubby little arms.

We know mosquitoes like nice, wet conditions, like we’ve had this summer, but did you know that mosquito eggs can stay dormant for years, and then hatch when conditions are right? That’s impressive.

Mosquitoes do have some environmental benefits, too. They feed on nectar, and help pollinate flowers. They in turn are a food source for other insects, birds, bats and even fish. So when you give a little blood to a mosquito, you’re also supporting a healthy ecosystem. Isn’t that pretty cool?

All that said, I don’t particularly like getting bit by mosquitoes. While I spent many hours growing up playing with the melted wax in those big citronella bug bucket candles, I’ve never found mosquito repellents to be very effective for more than a few minutes. I think some of the products you can find have more of a placebo effect – if you think the mosquitoes aren’t bothering you, then they aren’t bothering you.

My solution when I’m in close proximity is to just keep moving. As an aside, one of my strongest summers of training on my mountain bike was a bad mosquito year. It was a challenge to pedal uphill fast enough to stay ahead of the swarms, but there was plenty of incentive to do so – kind of like staying ahead of the zombies in all those movies.

Speaking of mosquitoes and zombies, my wife and I recently returned from an extended camping trip. On our trips, we like to do a nice hike in the morning, and then relax at the campsite in the afternoon. We even have a pop-up screen house for when it gets buggy.

On this trip, though, the mosquitoes were stacking up against the screen like zombies trying to push through a gate. My wife wields a bug zapper racket like a ninja, with a backhand technique that would make Serena Williams proud, but every time we went in or out of the screen house or camper, she’d have to fight off a whole new swarm.

As I mentioned, my solution is to just keep moving. While she was trying to relax, I went for a bike ride – which turned out to be more relaxing than relaxing at camp. The breeze picked up while I was gone, and while it helped to keep the bugs down, there were a few gusts strong enough to blow the screen house over. (Note to self: Pack some stakes for the next trip.)

So, it was suggested that we follow my advice and keep moving, in this case to the next campsite where, we hoped, it would be less buggy. For the record, it was not.

Fortunately, prime mosquito appreciation season here is winding down. In just a few weeks, fall will be in the air. Kids will be headed back to school, leaves will be changing colors and termination dust will appear on the mountains.

At that point, my wife will put away the bug zapper, and I can slow down and relax.

Until then, I’ll just keep moving.

Will Morrow lives in Kenai. Email him at willmorrow2015@gmail.com.

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