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NORTHERN SWEDEN DISPATCHES
'I waved and flapped like a swan in a cattery'

'I waved and flapped like a swan in a cattery'

Published: 07 Aug 2012 14:52 GMT+02:00
Updated: 07 Aug 2012 14:52 GMT+02:00

While house-hunting up north, ex-Londoner Paul Connolly comes face to face with the scourge of the northern Swedish summer; the bloodthirsty and dreaded mygga, or mosquito.

The sound of arrhythmic clapping started around mid-June. Suddenly our little rental house in Vuollerim sounded like the audition venue for the world’s angriest, but least funky, percussionists as short bursts of frantic clapping were punctuated by shouts of ‘bastards!’ and ‘take that you little bugger!”.

The mosquito season had arrived in northern Sweden. And what a season it was.

Of all the clichés I’d read and heard about the north, the one about mosquitos was one I really wanted not to be true. I loathe and detest all flying things. Hell, I’d ban birds if I could. But flying things that bite you? What’s that all about?

According to my friend up here, David, “the whole mosquito thing is overblown - they’re really not that much of a problem unless you’re going fishing by a lake at midnight.”

As my girlfriend Donna hurtled around the house sounding like a cross between Bruce Lee (“Aiiiiiiii-yaa!”) and Father Jack from Irish-British sit com Father Ted (“Feck!”), I repeated these words to David on the phone. I may have shouted them, I can’t remember. I was wrestling with a 4 metre mygga at the time.

He was maddeningly calm.

“Yes, I’ve heard they’re really bad in Vuollerim this year. The worst for 20 years. Someone in Vuollerim posted on Facebook that they’re getting into houses even if the windows are shut.”

I confirmed that this was indeed true and hung up - there were now mozzies everywhere in our wee house. Things were getting ugly.

The mosquito plague even affected our house-hunting. The second day after they first reared their whining ugly little heads, we went to see a house on a lake. With quite heavy tree coverage. Both Donna and I were blitzed.

The critters attacked us so aggressively their bites actually stung. They were like Viking berserker mosquitos. It didn’t help that I’d made a questionable clothing choice by wearing shorts.

The house owner, however, was quite regally unbothered. While we were running around his property swatting and yelping, he looked on in detached bemusement.

This was to become a theme.

A few days later we went to see another house by a lake. The owner, a former army chaplain, had all the doors and windows in the house open. The whole place was alive with insects.

A broms or horse fly in English (an insect so unutterably aggressive and evil its mere existence must surely make even the most religious of people question their faith in a god) pursued me remorselessly as I waved and flapped like a swan in a cattery.

In a brief moment of respite (I think the horse fly had tracked and taken down a bear instead), I asked the owner about the mosquito situation.

“I think we are lucky here. We do not seem to get that many of them.”

As he spoke, both Donna and I were transfixed. There, on his left cheek, two mosquitos were attempting to copulate. He wasn’t just not worried about his face being a hook-up joint for randy bloodsuckers; he didn’t even seem to notice. As nice as the house was, we left swiftly. It was mygg hell.

At another house, while Donna and I hopped and swatted, an estate agent told us that he only gets one or two bites a year.

“Most of my friends are the same. We don’t seem to get bitten that much.”

Is that it? Are Swedes habituated to mosquitos? How long does that habituation take? Are there pills you can take? A surgical procedure? I don't care, give me a lagom injection if that's what it takes.

As this intermittently decent summer has progressed, the number of mygg around Vuollerim has noticeably diminished. We can go for walks around 6pm and barely be interfered with. Granted, I still lather myself up with anti-mosquito creams so thoroughly that I resemble a swimmer attempting to navigate the Bothnian Gulf in January, but it’s progress.

We even open a window now and then. But then we do have in the region of 23 plug-in anti-mozzie devices.

And we finally found a house. It’s by a lake too. And there’s very little tree coverage, so the mygg get blown about and dispersed. We’ve been there three times now and seen very few mosquitos.

Still, we’re taking no risks. We’ve already purchased not one, but two, Mosquito Magnet machines, and five rather expensive mosquito net windows. Next summer we’ll be prepared.

Bring it on, myggs!

Paul Connolly

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

16:08 August 7, 2012 by JulieLou40
Paul, I have a load of mosquito armbands which are impregnated with special oils and stuff which repels them. get in touch with me if you want some. Cheers, Julie.
17:46 August 7, 2012 by shiraz
What are mosquitoes doing bothering the good folk anywhere ? There is a way to totally end these insects without nets , oils, magnets, armbands etc. and perhaps we may only keep mosquitoes in a mosquito zoo or museum ?

The same thing goes with flies (horse or otherwise). If I had the resources I would build such a system and rid the world of harmful elements (or only certain regions if some parts liked their mosquitoes for some reason) if I had the resources but perhaps I am meant to build better things.
18:36 August 7, 2012 by palledalle
Don't worry Paul, it does get better. I've been here nearly 40 years and I'm hardly ever bothered by mosquitos any more! I've also got a house to sell a bit south of you, Byske in Västerbotten if anyone is interested :).
20:55 August 7, 2012 by EmployedProfessional
If anyone invites you to Lapland for vacation,realise that you will be the bait!

The trick is to drink beer and taint your blood/skin chemistry for the buggers,so I'm told.

Ja,det funker,lite.

Fact is,our blood/chemistry it tasty to them buggers!
06:47 August 8, 2012 by entry
Repellent with DEET in the high 90s is the solution.
09:02 August 8, 2012 by achuou
This sounds like a horror movie...
21:58 August 8, 2012 by gwella
The best anti-mosquito deterrant by far is 'Skin So Soft' from Avon.

The mozzies hate the smell ,so steer clear and go on to someone else. Luckily for us humans, it actually smells nice because it's a skin moisturiser. Even the army use this product in mosquito-laden countries! I use it, and have never had a single bite. Recommended with a mozzie head net though if you can't stand the incessant buzzing around your ear! FAR safer than Deet, and it's also inexpensive and long-lasting compared to other products.

Another tip - take daily Vitamin B tablets 3 weeks before travel and eat Marmite - it's the yeast that mosquitoes also don't like (hence a previous poster recommending beer... but Vit B and Marmite cheaper!)
14:11 August 9, 2012 by GraceBee
What a funny article! I almost snorted my coffee out of my ears! Thanks for brightening my day. I would have loved to have seen the priests' face.

I must take exception with Gwella, though. Skin So Soft does not work with everyone. Not me for instance! We have bad myggs here in Arvidsjaur this year. They're everywhere. A terrible year after many good ones.
22:04 August 9, 2012 by gwella
GraceBee... yes, I gather the mosquitoes have been like flying demons this year. Maybe last year when I was in Jokkmokk and Kvikkjokk they weren't so bad (early Aug). I then went to Stalaluokta which I guess is towards the end of the biting time, they were there in their droves in the mountains but I was okay... but not those who didn't use Skin so Soft. At the end of the day, if they like the taste of us, they'll get us, no matter what we do to prevent them.

I hope for you next year that up in Arvidsjaur you get a bit of respite from the dreaded myggs, it sounds pretty horrendous for everyone, not forgetting the animals too. Less rain during next Spring might prevent them multiplying too..
15:10 August 10, 2012 by yractualpatience
My daughter takes Plaquenil - quinine - (for a totally unrelated disease) and is rarely if ever bothered by mosquitos.
03:12 August 11, 2012 by MitchT
Mosquitoes are the state bird of Wisconsin. There is no limit, no license required, and no restrictions on season, although mid-summer affords the best hunting. I recommend bird shot in a 12 gauge, but 24 gauge is adequate. There's plenty of meat on them after they have exsanguinated a few of your neighbors.
11:51 August 11, 2012 by Järven
Haha! just wait until you meet their cousins the "blinningar", not to mention the knott (midges) and - gasp! the älgens nässtyng (google it! I've met some and they are horrible!) You will also discover why the witty Northerners refer to freezing summer weather as "ganska myggfritt". The only thing which really works is to find a friend who they like to bite more than you, and hang out with them. (They don't bite my hubby when I am around!) You could try one of those beekeeper-type hats they sell at Jula. Brännvin sometimes helps - after a couple of glasses you just don't care any more....
22:12 August 11, 2012 by tpol14
I share your pain, the neighbours laugh at me swatting myself like some lunatic! English, well "kiwi" english blooded and here in on Oland in Southern Sweden they love me.... June - eaten alive! Now back to the sommarstuga for august armed with a CO2 cyclinder and a Mosquitaire Plus they are nothing like they were in June, but the catcher now in it's 2nd week is filling up rapidly... small cheaper than a magnet but seems to be very much worth the effort. But not for those horse flies! Pure evil.... any consolation... just as bad in Kent this year too.... and sadly no amount of Brannvin fixes them albeit no lack of trying!
10:05 August 12, 2012 by jarvtrask
I hope the mygga storm has abated around Arvidsjaur now. With nice weather over the coming week, I don't fancy being perstered the whole time.

Drinking lots of wine usually helps....it's a pain to do, I know.
17:19 August 16, 2012 by Esox
Nice article but... It's a warning for me. I'm going to travel to Jamtland in 2nd half of September and I'll stay by the lake. Can anyone tell me if I should prepare myself for huge mygga or other bugs plague then?
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