The situation on the Yampa and Green Rivers this year is being described as “Biblical,” and not in a good way. What is greeting visitors and river trippers in Dinosaur National Park this year are clouds of voracious mosquitos.
“Worst I’ve ever seen it,” says one description recently posted.
What does that mean? Not to brag but I’ve been there and I’ve done that. Bolivia was the worst where our group faced mosquitos, sand flies, flies, sweat bees, leaf cutter ants, bullet ants, fire ants, poisonous moths, burrowing maggots, piranhas and probably a whole lot of other stuff that I’ve forgotten or simply did not see. The Bolivian Amazon is a place where everything is eating everything all the time.
Besides that I endured at least two weeks straight of relentless mosquitos on a river trip down the Green River starting in Dinosaur National Park and ending in Lake Powell. Memories of river trips tend to blend together but that one on the Green is forever etched into my being.
I remember one night my young daughter cried out for me to come put up her rain fly. But there was no rain, just the frenzied attempts of thousands of ravenous skeeters trying to get in for the food lying just inside the membrane. It seems like if you wait long enough they will probably dig their way through eventually. Don’t laugh. Leaf cutter ants in Bolivia put more than 300 holes in my tent while I was trying to sleep. The holes in the tent had to be duct taped up pronto lest the above named vectors take advantage of the openings. Stuff happens.
You don’t get used to it but if you take precautions you can live through these situations and maybe even have a good time.
Mosquitos are drawn to heat, sweat and moist air, so If you are breathing they’re coming for you. I will be prepared with canyon desert clothing, long sleeves, long pants, and shoes and socks. A hat and mosquito head net are also on hand. The clothing has been treated with permethrin repellent. Put it on, let it sink in. Do not read the warning label because therein lies some toxic sh%#. There’s the bottle of 100% DEET. Careful! It melts plastic!
I also have two insect shelters. One is a pop up canopy with netting which fits snuggly on my raft. So I will have shade and netting on the boat throughout all but the biggest rapids.
The other bug shelter will protect the galley. Others on the trip will have additional shelters, including one for the groover (river toilet).
You might think that this is overkill. Don’t take my word for it. Even infamous river explorer John Wesley Powell’s expedition took note of the menace on the Green River when crewman George Bradley wrote that, “Our camp tonight is alive with the meanest pest that pesters man—mosquitos.”
In the wonderful book, “Cataract Canyon – A Human and Environmental History of the Rivers in Canyonlands,” by Robert H. Webb, Jayne Belnap and John S. Weisheit they dedicate a small section to the Green River mosquito menace.
This may be too much information for you but in the book they write that, “Both male and female mosquitos live on plant sap and nectar from flowers. However, when it comes time to reproduce, females rely on the blood of vertebrates (mostly warm-blooded ones) to obtain the protein needed to produce eggs. Females can lay up to ten batches of 200 eggs. They can develop the first batch of eggs without vertebrate blood, but blood is required for subsequent batches. The average intake per bite is 2.5 times the original weight of the mosquito, yet they still manage to fly away. Mosquitos will also suck blood from newly dead carcasses.”
I know that’s a long quote but I have rarely read one so chock full of useful information. It motivates me strongly to avoid being harvested in the first place. Not only might I pick up a deadly parasite like Zika or West Nile but I also might be the catalyst for creating thousands more mosquitos.
I guess I’ll be hoping for nearby dead carcasses to distract mosquitos from my warm blood. I will also have to learn to identify the females. Lore has it that if you look closely they appear to have Dolly Parton hairdos.
Steve Skinner is going in. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.