Manitoba’s Monster Mosquitos
There is an odd pride that Canadians share. In my home town, Regina, we are oddly proud of just how miserable the weather can be. The all-time recorded high is 43.9C while the all-time low is -50C. That variation of 94 degrees may just be the largest temperature variation of any city on earth. But truly, in any given year it probably only varies 75 to 80 degrees Celsius.
When it is cold in Regina, people hate it and complain bitterly and rightfully so because anything colder than 30C starts to become physically painful. Try it yourself, grab a pound of ground beef out of your –20C freezer and see how long you can hang on to it before it starts to hurt. However the real killer in winter is the wind. They’ve even got a name for it: wind chill. Wind chill can make -20C feel like -60oC where exposed skin can freeze in 2 minutes or less. The really odd thing is that a -45C day stops some outside work and the kids get to stay inside for recess but otherwise, it is business as usual. Everybody is still expected to get to work and school. Buses and airplanes run as does your own car, most of the time and more so if you plug in the block heater.
Likewise when it gets hot, people hate it and complain bitterly, but it’s a dry heat they tell themselves meaning that the humidity index is less of a factor on the prairies.
For all of the complaining that we do at home, we find ways to brag about it when we leave home and try to describe it to others. The misery becomes a badge of honour. Suddenly we portray ourselves as tough and enduring when we’re probably perceived by others as stupid. This phenomenon is not limited to Saskatchewan as it occurs across Canada. Though it varies regionally, but all you need to do is ask any local about what natural scourge makes life difficult for them and they are proudly sure to let you know.
After weather, the next most popular scourge in Regina would be the dreaded mosquito. I can attest that they can be an F’n nasty horde. Unlike many of the places we travel where mosquitos are slow, prairie mosquitos’ spring out of the way to avoid a slap, just like a fly. You take a swing at them when you feel them penetrate your skin and having escaped your slap, they will return to try again. Now multiply that by the dozen or so attackers and you’re dancing pretty funny while losing the battle.
I thought the Saskatchewan mosquitos were THE force to be reckoned with until a visit to Inuvik convinced me otherwise. Now the mosquitoes up there were nasty, or so I thought at the time.
Last summer we decided that Flin Flon Manitoba would be the destination for our July camping trip. We chose Flin Flon simply because it was a place that we’d never been.
The drive up was beautiful. We took the Hanson Highway. That highway weaves and bobs around a number of lakes that lie only metres from the highway and each has access. Our pattern became one where we would pull up to each lake, the dog would have a swim while we would throw a line in and catch a fish or two within minutes, release them, then drive on to the next lake a few kilometres up the road and repeat. That was truly awesome.
At our last camping spot on the Saskatchewan side of the border, the mosquitos and horse flies began to let us know that they were around and expected an ounce of flesh. By the time we crossed into Manitoba the war was on and the ante was raised to a pound of flesh. I’d always thought we had it bad in Saskatchewan but I was shocked to learn that I had no idea what bad was…
We tried to power through. We really did. After two nights at an absolutely beautiful camping site in Reed Lake Provincial Park, we capitulated. The twitching, slapping and itching was driving us mad. We settled for a night in a hotel at The Pas.
Rejuvenated by a hot shower we decided that we’d try our luck in the Porcupine Provincial Forest the next night. It was now the long weekend and space was limited so we paid for two nights at the first acceptable campground. Once again, we powered through the first night. It was insane. There was no reprieve. We bathed in deet mosquito repellant and reapplied every half hour or so. When that wasn’t effective, we tried standing in the smoke of our campfire and when that didn’t help we retreated to our tent where annoyance was diminished to the incessant buzzing outside.
The next morning we bravely powered through breakfast. Faced with the prospect of another full day in this mosquito hell, we threw in the towel, forwent our fees and packed up camp. We ended up back in Saskatchewan where our next campsite was significantly more peaceful.
After our experience we have to take our hats off to the good people of Northern Manitoba. You should be proud that you may just live with the worst mosquito menace in the world, you crazy bastards!