No recount of fieldwork in Churchill, Manitoba can be complete without some horror story of the bugs. While I was lucky during the 2009 season with abnormally cool temperatures, no such luck was had during the 2010 season. The mosquito density was just unreal. No amount of bug spray can protect you... I've been told that insect repellent does make a dent in the mosquitoes trying to bite you... instead of 5,000 mosquitoes trying to bite you, bug spray makes it so that a mere 3,000 are attacking you. In the end, the people who work in Churchill just don't find poisoning themselves with bug spray worth it. On the bright side, there are no diseases that mosquitoes carry in the far north!
During field work, we would have to be completely covered from head to toe. This involved wearing head nets, long sleeves, and, most importantly, gloves. Thin gloves were essential, especially when we had to take field notes. In addition, when dealing with blackflies, it was extremely important to tuck pants into socks, gloves into sleeves, and shirts into pants, since blackflies crawl into tight spaces and will find their way into the tiniest hole to bite you. When all covered and prepared, I usually avoided mosquito bites in the field completely. I usually ended up getting more bites in the Study Centre or in the car.
Now, words can only do so much to describe the bug density. For the rest, I will let my pictures show the horror.
Gloves are important.
Mosquito carnage. In the top image, I got 72 in one swat of my hand. I can't remember how many we got in our field notebook, but it was well over 100.
Yours truly, doing veg surveys, with a small cloud of mosquitoes around my head.
A truly scary cloud of mosquitoes. Click on the image to zoom in to see all the mosquitoes that are a bit farther away.
I think this may be one of the signs of the Apocalypse... "and the Lord sent forth a cloud, and the sky was darkened with mosquito" (photo by Jay McGowan)