Opinion Matters

With Gazette Opinion Editor Greg Peck

Mosquitoes show no mercy in Mercer

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Greg Peck
Monday, June 23, 2014

A UW-Madison insect researcher told The Gazette in a story Saturday that recent rains could trigger a hatch of swarming mosquitoes within seven to 10 days—unless subsequent rains are enough to flush eggs onto solid ground and kill the larvae.

We can only hope our mosquito population here is nothing like that in Wisconsin's north woods.

Three weeks ago, I blogged about the mosquitoes in Minocqua and some equipment I purchased to arm ourselves for a week's vacation up north with our grandkids. Well, that trip came last week in Mercer, where the mosquitoes took no mercy. They were even worse than in Minocqua.

We stayed at Loon Haven Resort, and you literally couldn't go outside without being molested by mosquitoes. Skeeters slipped inside whenever someone stepped outside. They invaded our cars no matter how quickly we entered and slammed the doors.

Bob and Ursula Karabetsos have owned the otherwise likeable resort on Grand Portage Lake for 25 years. Bob told me they had their share of mosquitoes last summer after the ice left the lake in late spring. This year, after another late ice-out, the mosquitoes are the worst he's ever seen them.

The biting insects defined our entire trip and altered everything we did. We tried enjoying evening campfires and s'mores only twice. I imagined us sitting around inside the screen porch. But we wound up using the porch to store our fishing equipment, and the trips in and out with gear let in too many mosquitoes. When we weren't fishing, we shut the door going out to the porch and instead sat inside the cabin day and night. I had purchased a ThermaCell unit, which uses a heat-activated mat to repel mosquitoes, but never even tried to use it to ward off the pests. In fact, the mosquitoes were a key reason why we decided to pack up and leave a day early. Mosquito bites don't bother me much, but our grandkids got welts from them.

Last night, my wife, Cheryl, and I walked two miles here in Janesville before relaxing at nightfall on our back deck. I saw two fireflies. I smacked one mosquito—and it was nowhere as big as the drone-size mosquitoes operating in Mercer.

But if these invaders do plague your neck of Rock County, here's one device you might want to keep handy. It's the Zap Master: The Original Electric Hand-Held Bug Zapper. I bought one at Wal-Mart in Minocqua when it was on sale for less than $7 after a woman who had been camping recommended it. This battery-operated device looks like a badminton racquet. Trust me, it works great. It was our constant companion—even inside the cabin. Whenever we let a few skeeters inside, we waited until they approached, grabbed the zapper and fried them. In six days, we literally used it to kill hundreds of mosquitoes. We delighted in using this weapon so much we almost wrestled for control at times. Before we left, we had to put in fresh batteries.

I imagine it will work great on our deck if those little pests get annoying around here.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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