Every summer, the serene tundra around Kangerlussuaq is transformed for a few weeks into a swarming hunting ground for mosquitos. This occurs when the larvae hatch around mid-June. Towards the end of last summer, just before they died, the females laid their eggs in the edges of the many ponds that are found around Kanger. The marshy areas that surround a lot of these are also ideal sites for mosquito eggs. Winter arrives, and the mosquitos are in the pupa stage. They hibernate during the long frozen season, and only develop into larvae when the water begins to thaw and the snow begins to melt.
Since the summer here is so short, the mosquitos mature, feed, and reproduce at top speed. In order to develop eggs, females must have a blood meal. That’s where we come in – besides muskox, caribou, and birds, humans are one of the staples in the Greenlandic mosquito’s diet. And since we pollination biologists are out in the field all day, sometimes sitting still for long periods, we’re easy targets. Luckily, we’ve come up with some good ways to keep them at bay, or at least off our skin:
- Mesh head-net: A must. Keeps your face and neck covered.
- Fingerless gloves: Since we work with plants (such as the arctic blueberry) that produce tiny flowers, we need dexterity. However, we also want to protect our hands from bites. Fingerless gloves are the perfect compromise, but we do end up with a weird tan just on our fingertips!
- Long pants and sleeves: We have to keep our whole bodies covered, even when it gets hot.
Mosquitos aren’t all bad though. They may actually act as important pollinators during the Greenlandic flowering season. Males, or females that can’t find a blood meal, often visit flowers to drink the sugary nectar that gives them energy, and pick up pollen at the same time. Despite the fact that mosquitos can carry only a little pollen on their scrawny bodies, their sheer numbers could cause them to be a significant help to the reproduction of many flowering plants in the tundra.