By Clark Fair, for the Redoubt Reporter
On the Kenai Peninsula you can’t see no noseeums like the ones you can’t see here in Bristol Bay.
I spent more than half a century being inoculated by the peninsula’s flying insects, so when I was warned, prior to moving to Dillingham last year, that Bristol Bay bugs swarmed thick and fierce and that I’d better be prepared for the worst, I thought, “We’ll see. We’ll see.”
After all, some Junes on the Kenai unleashed a veritable contagion of wings, and no rousing bath in DEET could keep all of the needle-bearing invaders at bay.
Near Soldotna, I once received so many mosquito bites on my sweaty legs, neck and arms during a week of brush-cutting that I began imagining the crawling and stinging even after I was safe indoors. Driving on the flats outside of Sterling during a particularly notorious outbreak of Culex culicidae, I once considered simply peeing my pants rather than braving the bug-filled brush.
In the fall, I’d packed moose meat out of the boggy lowlands of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge with deer flies divebombing the back of my head and nipping at my wrists, and white sox crawling under the brim of my hat and flying into my eyes and ears, as I struggled sweatily under the weight of a bloody hindquarter.
I’d also been bank fishing along the Kenai River after sunset, when the day breeze had wheezed its last gasp down the valley and the last light had faded behind a ridge — and a sudden prickliness had seized each of my exposed extremities as the noseeums fled the grass and began burrowing into my flesh.
What greater torment could Bristol Bay offer?
Plenty, said my brother, a fisheries biologist with experiences in this area. He told me that although noseeums and white sox around King Salmon were the worst he’d ever seen, Dillingham’s could be bad enough.
The locals said the mosquitoes could be a plague — unless the wind was blowing. The wind almost always blows in Dillingham. Ergo, I figured I’d probably be just fine.
When summer arrived here, so did the mosquitoes. They were thick at times, particularly in the tall marsh grass along the Nushagak River. Overall, though, I found them tolerable. No worse, certainly, than anything I’d seen on the Kenai. The locals said, “Pshaw, ain’t bad this year. Too dry. Seen ’em a lot worse.”