Story last updated at 4:36 p.m. Thursday, June 13, 2002

Bloodsucker population soars
A damp spring may have done more than put a stop to a picnic or two this year. The wet weather is like throwing a procreation party for the state's unofficial bird, the mosquito.

According to Marta Mueller, integrated pest management technician at Alaska Cooperative Extension in Fairbanks, the unusual amount of standing water left plenty of breeding space for the bloodsuckers.

Locals say this year's mosquitoes are hungrier than ever.

"Every one of my (two-man) crews is going through a can of mosquito spray a week," said landscaping businessman Jeff Labrenz.

Emily McGuire, a ranger's aide at Chena Lakes Recreation Area, said the itch factor is higher than usual.

"I've lived here my whole life and I've never seen mosquitoes this bad," she said. "A lot of campers have complained about it and left because of mosquitoes. They're real bad around the lake."

Alaska has 27 species of mosquitoes, Mueller said, ranging from the big, slow-moving ones to small, zippy, more aggressive mosquitoes found later in the year.

Fairbanks residents have been gearing up against the bug brigade with repellent, head nets, propane bug zappers and mosquito bed nets.

"There will be mosquitoes hatching throughout the summer," Mueller said. "There's no respite."

-- Fairbanks Daily News-Miner