Monday, July 13, 2015

Dragon Flies Kill Mosquitoes

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There are a number of insects in Alaska that bite or sting people. Mosquitoes of course. There are well over a trillion of them in the state. They can drive caribou to exhaustion. Sometimes on my treks I couldn’t tell if the pattering on my tent in the morning was rain or mosquitoes. After mosquitoes you have black flies, or sometimes called gnats. Unlike mosquitoes, they’ll burrow into my dogs’ wiry fur to get to their skin, often emerging later when they’re gorged on blood. Then you have tiny little insects with a nasty bit called no-see-ums, which can go through the mesh of some tents. During the heat of the day when the summer sun in really intense, horseflies will be out. They have two scissor-like apparatuses on their mouths that cut open your flesh to let blood ooze out. Then they lap it up. They have a really painful bite and can drive dogs to chomp their teeth repeatedly in the air. And of course you have yellow jackets, which often make nests in log piles or on the ground. They won’t sting you unless you disturb their nest, but once one does sting you have to get out of the area fast. I once saw a bald-face hornet kill a yellow jacket. And I once saw a dragon fly kill a hornet, by biting the back of its neck with its strong-toothed jaw until it was dead. Dragon flies are a person’s best friend in the backcountry of Alaska. They can kill and eat all the bugs I just described.They’ll often fly around a person picking off mosquitoes by the dozens. I used to like to sit along the Yukon River and shut my eyes and let the dragon flies buzz around me getting mosquitoes. They’re soothing. Perhaps the lower frequency of their wing beats, the knowledge that they won’t bite you, and will kill mosquitoes as fast as they come to them are reasons why. And dragon flies can eat a lot. Even my dogs are completely at ease when horseflies are flying around them, just inches from their heads sometimes. The dogs don’t do anything but sit there, like they would not do for mosquitoes or horseflies. The dogs don’t even move their eyes when a dragon fly is near.