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Mosquitos in Alaska

Have you been bothered by mosquitos in AK? If so, when were you there and where in AK were you? Where I'm from mosquitos were a problem at night when it was dark outside. Even though there are 22 hours of daylight in early July, I believe mosquitos are worse during this time, am I correct?

Posted by
1836 posts

We spent a couple of months exploring most of the state a few years ago. Arrived in Skagway in July and departed from Kodiak in mid-Sept. The only place I recall them being especially murderous was near Skagway when we hiked the first part of the Chilkoot Trail, but the trail wandered near a swampy area. Don't recall them being a problem in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Denali NP, Sitka or Kodiak but we were there pretty late in the season apparently.
Our hostess at one stop said that Spring was particularly bad.
Bottom line is that they seem to be resistant to anything but DEET - and a heavy dose of that as well. Other things we tried really had no effect.

Posted by
169 posts

If memory serves, I believe Rick Steves stated in one of his books that taking a certain B vitamin makes your blood and skin unappealing to mosquitos. Good luck and safe travels.

Posted by
518 posts

Hi Robert, so you're saying that DEET alone did not ward off the mosquitos? My friends are going to Anchorage, Whittier, Prince William Sound, Talkeetna, Denali and Banff and one of the travelers wants to go later in the season due to mosquitos, but his wife wants to go in Jul for about a week.
I've been to Banff in late summer and wish I had gone earlier because of the fog and had trouble seeing Lake Louise.

Posted by
1836 posts

To clarify - repellant with a high concentration of DEET (30 to 40%) was the only thing that was effective in warding them off.
We were in Denali for a couple of weeks in August and found that it was pretty late in the season - ie Autumn weather was already settling in.

Posted by
341 posts

The mosquitoes population peaks in late June and early July as they hatch in Spring. For us that's late May to early June. We still have 2 feet of snow on the ground and getting another 6" today. They aren't bad around the coast or in the cities. They do come out more in the evening. And during the summer in doesn't get dark at all. There's a spray that works great and doesn't have DEET in it, if I remember the name I'll PM you.

Anchorage, Whittier, Prince William Sound, Talkeetna, Denali and Banff is a lot in one week. And Banff is in Alberta, Canada, a long drive from Anchorage (over 2000 miles). I'm assuming they will start in Anchorage, go to Whittier for a day to cruise PWS then back up to Anchorage. Then head up to Talkeetna and Denali. Are they renting a car here or driving up?

Posted by
82 posts

MaryPat: Mosquitoes, "white socks" (biting flys), and "no-see-ums" (biting gnats) are a problem in any part of Alaska (less in urban & ocean areas) at any time of day as long as it is not freezing. (The bugs are one reason a lot of birds summer in the North.) Deet is indeed the only thing that reliably works. The lower the Deet percentage the more often you must reapply. Deet will dissolve most plastics like eye glasses and watches. There may be some other chemicals that work for people who are not normally attractive to the pests. But the best answer is Deet. The good news is that the bugs are just pesky, not toxic, and the bites respond to hydrocortisone cream. When out in the woods, people with me stay near but not too near as I am a bug magnet. Any flying bug within a mile or more comes rushing my way, hoping for a feast. I always give them 100% Deet as a sauce.

If people are spending time sitting outdoors as in camping, burning some Pic coils will release a chemical fog for protection.

The best time to visit, IMHO, is May, June and early July. The weather is usually drier and sunnier. In South Central AK (where they are going), the rains really get going in July and August. But it can rain anytime until fall freezing. Most often, any rain is of short duration, so just wear layered warm clothing, keep a good rain coat handy and keep going. The animals don't know enough to get in out of the rain and are still active. Since you mention a visit to Banff (and Jasper?), some driving is involved. Driving the Alaska Highway? Taking the ferry? Or flying to/fro Anchorage and driving from the Lower 48?

Posted by
518 posts

Robert – thank you for the clarification.
TDW & Larry - my friends will spend a week in AK before flying to Banff from Anchorage. The itinerary I’ve put together follows:
Day 1 – fly nonstop from Detroit to Anchorage and sleep at The Lakefront Anchorage one night. I visited this hotel in 2002 when it was called the Millennium Hotel Anchorage and loved it. The lobby was filled with trophy hunters prized possessions (not that I condone hunting) and I sat outside and watched the seaplanes take off and land while eating good fish and chips.
Day 2 – Drive to Whittier and sleep there two nights.
Day 3 – Take a glacier cruise on Prince William Sound.
Day 4 – Drive to Talkeetna and have lunch. Hopefully they’ll get a glimpse of Mount McKinley (Mount Denali). Finish drive to Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge for two nights.
Day 5 – Catch first bus in Denali for wildlife viewing. Should I recommend buying a spotter scope to help find grizzlies?
Day 6 – Drive to Talkeetna if they still haven't seen Mount McKinley. I’m wondering if I should recommend going to AK in May or early June because I read that’s when Mount McKinley is more visible. What do you recommend?
From Talkeetna, continue drive to Anchorage and possibly fly out on the red eye or spend an additional night.

Posted by
283 posts

Our family lives in the bush up there, about 250 miles north of Fairbanks. May and June are awful or mosquitos, and time of day does not matter at all. July gets a bit better, but by August and September they are gone and it is so much more pleasant. Our family will only use the stuff with a lot of DEET and as soon as we go out on the screened porch, we al line up with arms out, eyes and mouth closed, and one person will spray everyone down, then get sprayed down themselves. We do that a couple times a day during the worst of it. It isn't just the mosquitos either, the biting flies can be awful. On one trip I got bit on the eyelid and got a back eye from it and still had it when I came home 3 weeks later. I know this all sounds horrendous, but that's just life in that area. I am not familiar with other areas of AK, but for where our family lives, this is how it is.

Posted by
341 posts

MaryPat - Why 2 nights in Whittier? It's only about a 1.5 hr drive from Anchorage so a day trip would do plus there isn't much else to see / do there. While things can change, right now there's a 5.5 hr glacier cruise that leaves about 1 pm. So they could drive down and spend the morning in Whittier, take the cruise then come back to Anchorage. Here is what I would do:

Day 1 – Fly Detroit to Anchorage. Spend 1 night.
Day 2 – Drive to Whittier and take a glacier cruise on Prince William Sound. Return to Anchorage for 2 nights.
Day 3 – Explore Anchorage. We have museums, the zoo and miles of easy walking / biking tails. And you can see Denali Mt from downtown! Elderberry Park on 5th Avenue is one good place.
Day 4 – Drive to Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge for two nights. There are places to stop along the way for lunch and to see Denali Mt.
Day 5 – Catch first bus in Denali for wildlife viewing.
Day 6 – Drive to Anchorage and possibly fly out on the red eye or spend an additional night. I assume flying into Calgary? That's a long flight and you lose time flying East.
Some info to help. This doesn't take into consideration road construction or accidents.

Anchorage to Whittier - 60 miles - 1.5 hours
Anchorage to Talkeetna - 115 miles - 2.5 hours
Talkeetna to Denali - 150 miles - 2-3 hours
Denali to Anchorage - 265 miles - 4-5 hours

Posted by
518 posts

When I saw Mt McKinley pop out of the sky while driving into Talkeetna, it was by far the tallest mountain I had very seen by a longshot. I’ve been to Aconcagua (Andes) and Mount Everest, but never was I as blown away by the sheer sight of Mount Denali (McKinley) which suddenly popped out of the sky. It was a magnificent sight to be seen.
Both the Andes and Himalayans were also spectacular, even though I never saw Aconcagua because of the weather, and took a plane above the clouds to see Everest, I want my friends to experience what I witnessed and that is the full range of Mount McKinley. There are no pictures that I can find on the internet that have captured this incredible sight.
Thank you TDW for the feedback. It would be easier to spend two nights at the Lakefront Anchorage for two nights instead of one.

Posted by
518 posts

Also, thank you Larry for your advice. This is the kind of feedback I was looking for.

Posted by
1501 posts

Near Anchorage about June 30 we were eaten alive. Back at same place July 7, virtually none. Dragonflies had wiped then out!

Posted by
82 posts

MaryPat: Schedule sounds okay if a bit rushed. I do agree with just 1 night in Whittier either coming or going. Whittier is interesting as the result of a paranoid (maybe even crazy?) WW2 general - just not 2 nights interesting. Take good 10X or 12X 35 to 42mm binocs as you won't be able to use a spotting scope/tripod on the bus except at Eilson or Wonder Lake. Mt. Denali stands out because the nearest other mountain is Foraker at 17,400 ft. If your friends go in May or June and can afford it, they could take a plane from Talkeetna to Denali. Conditions allowing, they could land on Kahiltna glacier or, if not, have close up mountain views. Talkeetna Air, K2 and others ferry climbers and offer sight-see flights. Visible from Anchorage is Mt. Susitna aka Sleeping Lady. On the flight to/fro Anchorage, they should try for a window seat away from the wings (best if forward) and hope for no clouds. One common route flies over Valdez, Cordova & the Chugach Range with glaciers & ice fields. Another is along the Cook Inlet with the Kenai Penninsula on the east and the Alaska Range (Denali is near the northern end) on the west. The volcanoes to the west are Augustine, Illiama, Redoubt and Spurr - all semi-active. In Banff, be sure to try the hot springs. If renting, reserve car early. Presence of the flying pests depends mainly on the temperature, winds and location.....Deet handy always.

Posted by
518 posts

Thank you again Stephen and Larry. I think the first week in Jul might be a good time to spend a week to ten days in AK. Larry, thank you for answering my spotter scope question. Your answer is what I needed to know.