Janesville34°

Mosquito madness hits Wisconsin north woods

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Greg Peck
June 2, 2014

I rounded a corner at the Wal-Mart in Minocqua on Sunday morning, and the aisle was a buzz of activity. A bevy of women were dumping bug dope and mosquito weapons into their shopping carts as fast as you can swat the back of your neck.

Oh. My. God. In the Janesville area, we don't realize how good we've had it so far this season. Cheryl and I got a reminder of the nasty little varmints on a trip a week earlier to our Wisconsin River property just northwest of Muscoda. We no more than stepped out of the car, and the assault began. We quickly got the Off out.

That was nothing compared to the Minocqua area. When we were getting 2 inches or less of rain last week, Mom told me Oneida County was getting dumped on much heavier. The little breeders love all that water. I'm sure the folks at the state Division of Tourism don't want to read this, but you couldn't even venture out into the garage without risking being carried off into the woods and drained of your blood.

The nastiest vampire has nothing on these buggers.

I sprayed myself well before doing yard work for Dad, including cutting up two modest fallen trees in the wooded edge of my parents' Minocqua property.

Later, my aunt and uncle invited us and a bunch of relatives for supper at their home on Lake Tomahawk. They have a beautiful view of the bay but otherwise are surrounded by swampland. I was surprised to see everyone assembling on their large deck when we arrived.

I learned they had two ThermaCELL units operating. These devices repel mosquitoes using heat-activated repellent mats. They seemed to be doing a decent job.

“They're on sale at Wal-Mart for about $20,” my brother-in-law told me. “I'm going to buy one.”

The units kept the skeeters off us fairly well until someone ventured away from the deck. They'd bring a cloud back with them. As it grew dark, there was no stopping these pests. We finally went indoors for a relaxing visit before slapping ourselves silly.

More rain came as we retired Saturday night.

When I walked our dog, Molly, on Sunday morning, I made the mistake of not doping up first. I tried to hurry her along, at one point even running. I thought the mild breeze would keep the mosquitoes away, but that didn't faze the nasty biters. I swatted dozens off my arms and neck—twice I got two in a single slap—before we returned and retreated to the house.

I thought about a trip we have planned with our Chicago-area grandkids—“Is that a bug? Yikes, get me out of here!”—in a cabin near Mercer this summer and thought it best to buy a ThermaCELL.

That's when I ran into the traffic jam in that aisle at Wal-Mart. I'd already tossed in my basket six of those insect-repelling “Super Bands,” wristbands that supposedly help for 200 hours. Let's see, 24 hours times seven days—yep, one apiece should do us.

I found a ThermaCELL and refill cartridges and mats and tossed them in my basket. I rounded the corner, and a frantic woman said, “Where did you get those?”

“Here, I'll show you,” I replied helpfully.

Then another woman breathlessly said, “Oh, I know something that will work better than that.”

She took the panicked but curious crowd to the end of a nearby aisle, where stood a basket of the Zap Master: The Original Electric Hand-Held Bug Zappers.

“These work great,” she said. “I bought one at a rummage sale. We've been camping, and it saved us.”

She was so passionate, I swear had she stood there 10 minutes, she'd have sold out the store's supply.

The thing looks like a badminton racket. She said that instead of waving mosquitoes away, only to have the voracious little evaders quickly re-attack, she says you wave this battery-operated thing in front of your face, and the skeeters head for the light, only to get zapped into oblivion, much like those electrical bug zappers people had years ago.

The woman tossed more of the Zap Masters in her shopping cart, as elbows flew.

I pulled one from the chaos.

“You'll want more than one,” the experienced woman said. “Trust me.”

Well, I thought, I'll start with one.

Later, she wound up behind me in the checkout lane. I told her we lived in Janesville, where we've seen few mosquitoes all year. She said she lives in Nekoosa but had been camping for two weeks so she didn't know what the insect population might be back home. She wasn't taking chances though. She had four Zap Masters in her cart, including ones she was giving to a niece and nephew.

We got home last night, and as I caught up on The Gazettes, I thumbed through the Wal-Mart flyer in Sunday's paper. Sure enough—the Zap Masters are on sale for $6.97.

I might need to make another run to Wal-Mart. Besides, my supply of Off seems to be running low.

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



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