How Alaskans fight the bite of summer

Posted: Tuesday, August 04, 2009

WASILLA - Nobody likes barbecue-crashers, especially those who make nuisances of themselves and don't know when to leave.

When it comes to alleviating summertime swarms, even experts say residents are mostly on their own dealing with mosquitoes. From slapping and swatting to expensive mechanical remedies, there are no surefire ways to stymie those pesky skeeters.

"We'll never win that war," said Jay Evenson, an Anchorage-based exterminator who does extensive service in the Valley. "There's what, 35 or 36 species of mosquito up here."

But other than chemical bombing the entire Southcentral region, mosquitoes are here to stay, said Kevin Nolen, a self-proclaimed "pest death technician" and owner of Professional Pest Control Services.

"As far as an actual cure (for the mosquito problem), that's pretty much nonexistent," he said. "We could get in a helicopter and spray the whole area, but unfortunately, you'd end up killing everything else on the planet, so that wouldn't work out so well."

That doesn't mean people need to resign themselves to endless summers of misery and scratching. Both Evenson and Nolen said there are many things residents can do to minimize mosquitoes around their homes.

Two devices, one called a mosquito vacuum and another a mosquito magnet, can help greatly reduce the population of mosquitoes in an area as large as an acre, Nolen said. Both are powered by propane and can include a chemical that attracts mosquitoes.

The propane emits carbon dioxide, which attracts the pests. It's that same CO2 that's created by our breath that make humans a favorite target for mosquitoes.

"The mosquito magnets, people swear by them," said Ellen Tingley, who works in the garden department at The Home Depot in Wasilla. "The best thing to do is to start early in the season, because it takes a couple weeks (for the device) to get control."

Propane-powered magnets and vacuums are "hot items," Tingley said, and can cost anywhere from $288 to nearly $1,000. "Normally, we can't keep them in stock."

There are also numerous chemical repellents on the market that can do a good job of keeping mosquitoes away, but it's not a solution Evenson likes.

"They work, but it's kind of invasive on the body," he said. "You can use them if you're in an extremely bad area, but I don't put it on myself."

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