Mosquitoes can be a pain in the neck, arm, and ankles – and just about anywhere else we didn’t want to or forgot to cover up. Since you’re planning a visit to Alaska, you’ve made a sensible decision to look up ‘when are mosquitoes worst in Alaska?’
Well, not only are we going to answer your question but in this post, we are also going to provide you with some actionable tips on how to prevent mosquito bites during your vacation.
So, how bad is the mosquito problem in Alaska, anyway?
Here’s the short version: mosquitoes are half-jokingly known as the state bird of Alaska. Mosquitoes are a summertime nightmare for Alaska residents and due to many rivers, lakes, marshlands, regular precipitation, and mild temperatures, the environment is perfect for these pesky little critters.
Alaska is host to 35 known species of mosquitoes and most, if not all, are happy to feast on human blood. However, mosquitoes are only an inevitable issue for Alaska visitors from the 2nd week of June till the last few weeks of July. Even during this time, people have reported that, if all the necessary precautions are implemented, the mosquito problem isn’t half as bad as it is rumored to be.
As the legend goes, mosquitoes in Alaska gather up to form ferocious swarms. So much so that the unofficial record of the highest number of mosquitoes killed by a single swat is reported to be as high as 78!
In reality, however, this kind of intensity of mosquito swarms only occurs rarely. For instance, these humongous numbers are quite possible during a perfectly windless night around a moist tundra, Interior forest or a stagnant pond.
Fortunately for Alaska visitors, the mythical bug problem isn’t so bad around places where they would usually spend most of their vacation time. Areas that are above the tree-line and where there is even a hint of a slight breeze (which describes most locations), will hardly have a few mosquitoes flying about.
If you were looking for an area in a location where we were absolutely certain about very few mosquito bites, we would suggest visiting parts around the Kenai Peninsula or Anchorage and its surrounding cities.
Other than these areas, travelers rarely wander off to areas where large mosquito swarms are common – unless they are backpackers or adventure travelers. Even if these individuals come across a few uninvited critters, there are always methods of fending them off.
The image you saw of huge swarms of mosquitoes in Alaska is most probably an accurate description of a few areas of Alaska. However, visitors are rarely faced with these swarms within the city.
These fabled swarms can only be seen in the far north or the interior open tundras of Alaska. These areas are home to densely forested woods, marshes, bogs, and swamps. While these places are rarely visited by travelers, a few exceptions include rivers and lakes where people often drive up to for fly-in bear viewing or salmon fishing.
In contrast, the more commonly traveled locations of Alaska experience a number of environmental factors that help keep these blood-thirsty creatures at bay. For starters, summer months hardly see any mosquitoes in densely populated areas.
Mosquitoes are most prevalent after they have hatched and their population has been reported to spike during late June and continues to remain constant throughout July. Even though it wouldn’t seem so, their numbers gradually start decreasing in the end of July and continue over to the beginning of August.
Mosquitoes in Alaska cannot fly in during light breeze and for this reason, mountainous regions or areas along the coastline tend to be relatively safe. Similarly, mosquitoes haven’t been known to be active during rainy seasons, even though drizzly days could bring with them a few winged challenges.
For any part of your skin, you cannot cover up, make sure you apply a good mosquito repellent. That being said, you will find some great options to choose from in Alaska. The following have been our trusty companions and so we would like to recommend them to you:
DEET is, hands down, the most effective method of warding off your pesky neighbors in Alaska. It should go without saying that the effectiveness of this product increases as you increase its concentration. Typically, applying anywhere between 30% and 40% of DEET is all you will ever need.
An increase in repelling strength beyond this concentration is hardly ever required. However, if you’re backpacking through a territory known for heavy mosquito swarms, then the 95% – 100% DEET will act as an unwavering shield against mosquito bites. Yes, the bugs might buzz around your ears but will quickly fly away as if you had an invisible energy barrier protecting you.
You see, DEET is a very strong chemical. So much so, that you could actually taste it on your tongue when you’re applying it on your face or neck. For this reason, you need not apply it directly to other parts of your body and instead just moderately rub it on your clothes. Also, never use the 95% concentration of DEET on minors.
Whenever you’re using DEET:
- Rinse your hands or take a shower as soon as you are out of mosquito territories
- Never apply it directly over irritated skin or wounds
- If you have already applied sunscreen, wait at least 30 minutes before applying DEET
- Make sure you read the manufacturer’s instructions (because it has been known to melt jacket fabrics and camera cases)
Some people are of the opinion that time-release repellents are formulated with a minimum of what DEET uses and can still be quite as effective as fully concentrated DEET (minus the harshness).
Sawyer Products, for example, is a well-known time-release repellent in Alaska. Its formula consists of 20% DEET, which is added as a constituent of protein molecules. Once this topical product dissolves into your skin, it starts releasing the DEET at a steady pace.
Similarly, Ultrathon and Travel Medicine Inc. have released controlled-release, 33% DEET polymers that have been known to keep you safe for up to 12 hours. Believe it or not, the former brand is the go-to product for the US army.
Some of us are hesitant to apply harsh chemicals on our bare skin and hence turn towards natural alternatives. However, we don’t think any natural alternative available in Alaska works as well as DEET – especially if you’re up against their infamous mosquito swarms. For this reason, giving up DEET for its immense strength would be trading off one peace of mind for another.
Still, there are some Alaskan river guides who have made the choice of switching to DEET alternatives even though they spend most of their time in areas prone to mosquito swarms. The best DEET alternative according to them is Picaridin and this brand has even managed to get the title ‘DEET of Europe’.
Other great DEET alternatives include:
- Natrapel 9-Hour Pump Spray
- Sawyer Premium
- Cutter Advanced
- Repel Smart Spray
- Citronella (natural alternative)
- Bite Blocker (natural alternative)
- Avon’s Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard (natural alternative)
Permethrin is the name of an odorless mosquito repellent formula that can easily bind to any type of clothing. Most mosquito repellent brands are now offering similar products since their formula was approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency in 2003.
All you need to do is apply these odorless products on your t-shirt, pants, and hats to keep the mosquitoes away. Additionally, the formula can remain on your clothing for up to 70 launderings!
To answer your question, mosquitoes are only an inevitable issue for Alaska visitors from the 2nd week of June until the last few weeks of July. Even if you are visiting Alaska during this time, we would only suggest visiting parts around the Kenai Peninsula or Anchorage and its surrounding cities.
A few exceptions for just Alaskan vacation should include rivers and lakes where people often drive up to for fly-in bear viewing or salmon fishing. Also, the mosquito population has been reported to spike during late June and continue to remain constant throughout July so you shouldn’t expect too many bites in the rest of the 10 months throughout the year.
Finally, even if you are traveling to Alaska from June through July and are going to backpack through rivers or marshes, a few precautions can save you from massive mosquito swarms. For starters, bring along your 95% – 100% concentrated DEET and apply it as advised by the instructions on the packaging.