Mosquitoes on the loose at the Desolation Wilderness
A slap, an itch, a buzz by the ear — watch out, it’s prime time for mosquitoes.
Yes, even California has to worry about those small, flying blood suckers. Recent rains are expected to sustain mosquito populations until summer heat takes care of lingering snowmelt and wet meadows, areas where the bugs breed.
Desolation Wilderness, a popular camping and hiking spot near South Lake Tahoe, is always thick with mosquitoes this time of year. The areas hit the hardest by the pests are at marshy areas like Lake of the Woods and Haypress Meadows.
“I’ve heard backpackers are getting hammered near the Velma Lakes,” said Robert Becker, U.S. Forest Service recreational planner. “It’s usually a snowload question. We’ve had moderate winters and hot summers. That might be the reason it’s exacerbated a little bit.”
Mosquitoes come out in force as nighttime nears. Female mosquitoes are the only gender of the bug that bites. They use what’s called a proboscis to do the job.
Becker said campers should stay away from wet areas. Instead set camps up on ridges where “wind flow will at least tip the odds a little bit.”
Deet, an insect repellent developed by the federal government in the 1940s, is also an effective weapon against the bugs.
Chip Weigel, 27, of South Lake Tahoe, camped last week at Triangle Lake in Desolation. He bought an organic bug spray to avoid a tingling sensation that Deet creates on his skin. It didn’t work.
“I’m going back to Deet, going back to have my skin tingle and being mosquito free,” Weigel said.
Weigel said mosquitoes at Desolation are twice as bad as they were last summer.
“I got to the point where I was sleeping with mesh covering me,” he said. “So many were trapped between my mesh and rain fly I heard them buzzing in there all night. It was not cool. I would even invite a few to come in for a short period of time just so I could kill them.”
El Dorado County Vector Control, a mosquito management program, has been spraying bug prone areas at South Shore since April, said Ginger Huber, manager at vector.
“The treatments have been on any standing body of water,” Huber said. “All these newly created detention basins for erosion control are sources for mosquitoes.”
Areas managed by the Forest Service don’t spray mosquito nests, instead the agency lets nature takes its course.
“What happens up there happens,” Becker said. “We depend on trout and frogs and fast slappin’ hands of backpackers.”
Don Lane, recreation officer who manages Desolation, said he thinks the peak of the mosquito season has passed and hot sunny days of summer are starting to kill them off.
“We’re just now on the downside,” Lane said. “We’ve got declining mosquitoes and increasing deer flies. You’ll have to wait for the cold mornings of the fall. Then you can wake up without a buzz in the ear.”
— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or at email@example.com