Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Finnish Mosquitoes Suck

Ah, Finland. The land of a thousand lakes. Actually, the land of a billion trillion zillion quillion mosquitoes.

In the summer, behind every idyllic Finnish countryside setting, there lurks an army if those evil creatures ready to ruin your enjoyment of it.

In general. I have a love-hate relationship with mosquitoes: I hate them, they love me. But Finnish mosquitoes ("hyttynen", in the singular form, which of course never occurs in the Finnish countryside), well, they absolutely ADORE me.

As it happens, I was in the Finnish countryside just last week and despite spending most of the time working indoors, I still got horribly bitten. I just know the pests were lying in wait for me: "Girls, he's out! Go, go, go!" – for let's not forget it's only the female mosquitoes that bite (the males feed on flower nectar, bless 'em).

Yes, yes, I know there exists very effective mosquito repellent. In Finland, the most popular seems to be "Off" (the brand name probably signifies "keep mosquitoes off" but I always think of it as an abbreviated and polite version of a 2-word interjection to the blood-suckers).

But here's the dilemma: you are happily ensconced inside, but you NEED to go to the out-house, do you a) spray yourself with repellent and stink for the rest of the day b) risk it? I chose to risk it and paid the price every time.

I have to ask though: Why are there so many mosquitoes in Finland?

I have been to lakes, rivers and forests in many countries in the world, and have never seen such a high density of mosquitoes as in Finland. Maybe it's because Finland was basically just one big swamp once upon a time...

[As an aside, I have a theory about the origin of the Finnish word for Finland, Suomi. I believe it's a contraction of "suomies" (swamp-man), in honour of the first inhabitants of the country. I could be very wrong, mind you.]

The other question I have is: Do Finnish mozzies actually prefer foreigners?

I ask this because I have noticed that I can be sitting outside covered from head to toe and fully "Off-ed", and mosquitoes will choose to swarm around me, seeking the smallest patch of unprotected skin, rather than go for the Finns sitting next to me wearing close to nothing. Maybe we foreigners are like exotic food to the heinous insects ("hey girls, forget the boring sausage-and-beer blood, check out what I've just found: Bresse-chicken-with-creamed-morel-mushrooms-and-Chablis blood!")

It's no laughing matter though: aside from being a pain in the neck (and the face, and the arms, and the legs, and the back), mosquitoes carry malaria. And Finland is not immune: in the course of my research for this blog-post (yup, believe it or not, I do actually research my ramblings), I found there have been in the past malaria epidemics in Finland as far North as Kittilä in Lapland and instances of the disease as late as 1954.

Does that concern the Finns? Hell no!

They hold the World Mosquito Killing Championships (WMKC) every year in Pelkosenniemi. The competition requires participants to swat as many mosquitoes as possible in 5 minutes – the most effective technique being obviously to offer their own flesh as bait. From what I could find out, the record is 21 mosquitoes...

Of course, if I took part in the competition, with my irresistible appeal to mosquitoes, I would be world champion. Strangely enough though, I am not tempted, despite my strong anophelicide urges (I told you I do research).

15 comments:

  1. Hehe, you can be quite sure, there almost surely won't be any malaria in Finland via mosquitos. :) I curse more because of the rash and the annoying sounds when I try to sleep... :D

    I use non-smelly repellants. One is from Dermosil, which can be found in apothecaries I think, and the other one called Free, which I found from Anttila. I put one of them on my skin when ever I need to face the little suckers, let it be there all day, maybe even add a little, and then wash it off in the sauna in the evening. :)

    It's common that mosquitos like some people more than some other people. I've heard it might have something to do with blood types, but I'm not sure if it's at all scientifically sound. :D

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  2. Well, my MIL can testify that her body has produced enough immunity so as not to be affected by sääskiä. But they still bother hubby and BIL and SIL and myself.

    And they just LOVE attacking my scalp as well as other body parts even if they're covered by thin socks/leggings, they still can suck the blood through. Dammit! They can't bite through jeans, though...but I've learnt to spray myself COMPLETELY well if I plan to spend a lot of time outside (I always spray my thin socks as well as leggings).

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    1. Oh, what I mean by "immune" is that MIL still gets attacked by the little buggers, but they don't make her itchy anymore.

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    2. Everyone builds that same immunity to the itching over the summer, provided they are stung enough times.

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    3. Mmmm, do I want to test that theory? Let me think...

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  3. "It's common that mosquitos like some people more than some other people. I've heard it might have something to do with blood types, but I'm not sure if it's at all scientifically sound."

    Blood types are defined by protein markers on blood cells, so I doubt the mosquitoes would be able to tell the difference until after sucking the blood, if at all. Of course, it could be that a blood type is genetically linked to an odor that the body produces (similarly to how red-haired people tend to have freckles).

    There definitely are huge differences between individuals. I once went jogging by the sea in Oulu with a colleague. It was in the evening at this time of the year exactly. I got bit like crazy. There was basically a constant cloud of mosquitoes around me if I moved at any speed slower than brisk jogging. My colleague, nothing. He said that he's always been like that since he was a kid. He sits pretty and untouched by mosquitoes while everyone around him gets sucked dry. Life is not fair.

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  4. Somebody told me it was a question of skin temperature - the warmer the skin the more the mozzies like it. So the best advice is make sure there is always someone near you with warmer skin than yours.....

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    1. I have heard that the blood vessels of warm people are closer to the surface which obviously would make it easier for mosquitoes to get blood. It would be a kind of mozzie convenience food, I guess. No idea if it's true.

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  5. I've also heard that what you eat can affect your susceptibility to those little suckers' bites. One alternative medicine website claimed that avoiding bananas helps. I would have dismissed this as bollocks except that when we were lakeside earlier this week, only my younger daughter got bitten, and she happens to be crazy about bananas and eats about three a day...

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  6. I've read that too about the mosquitoes loving people who eat bananas and that they are attracted to people wearing blue.

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  7. I don't what it is about the Finnish skeeters, but I spent nearly 2 years in South Africa, and almost never got bitten. Here, every year since 2002 when I first spent a summer, I'm savaged by them. Worse, I seem to have a 4 day reaction to each bite. Day 1 equals no pain, but swelling begins. Days 2-4 are itchy and painful, with the swelling turning to a black bruise.

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  8. This year has been particularly bad because of the spring weather, but still I can say from bitter experience Finnish mosquitos are NOT as bad as Scottish midges. Mozzies are deeply annoying and unpleasent, midges genuinely threaten your mental health!

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  9. Let's join fight to eliminate this flying arthropod from this planet. World Mosquito Day (august 20) should sent this message globally.

    prof. prem raj pushpakaran
    www.incredb.org/investigator.php?incredb_id=373

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  10. As you might know, word "hyttynen" ends with -nen. That usually means diminutive form of something. Now, I'm not sure if I ever want to meet or even see a "hytty".

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