|Wouldn’t summer be just much more enjoyable if it wasn’t for mosquitoes?|
For a nation that holds the naked sauna sacrosanct, it seems somewhat contradictory that Finns are never happier than when covered head to toe in clothing. Just as the cities and towns of Finland are warming to bearable temperatures, and being outside in short sleeves is no longer dangerous to your health, so everybody rushes to the forest where they have to cover every inch of their flesh against blood sucking mosquitoes.
There are around 40 species of mosquito in Finland but only three main culprits when it comes to biting humans. And they don’t actually bite – they pierce the skin with a sharp proboscis and suck up the blood, stopping it from clotting with a drop of their saliva. It’s this saliva that causes the skin to swell and itch.
But how do they find us? Mosquitoes are attracted to us by a trail of carbon dioxide expelled from our bodies when we breathe. They are also attracted by lactic acid that excretes from our sweat glands, movement, the smell of beer on our breath and skin, and even what we wear.
So, assuming you wish to enjoy the countryside, have a sauna and a couple of beers and, well, breathe, this Juhannus, how do you avoid being attacked by a swarm of bloodsucking insects?
The answer is to wear light, loose fitting clothes with long sleeves and legs, avoid perfume and refrain from being outdoors at the prime biting time between dusk and dawn. Smoke from candles and fires can help to repel mosquitoes, and being such weak flyers, even a light breeze can help to keep them away.
Of course if you wanted to get really Finnish this Juhannus you could hold your own mosquito-swatting contest like they do in Pelkosenniemi, in Finnish Lapland. The person that kills the most in a set time wins. Sadly though, no mosquito repellent is allowed, even for spectators.
Juhannus (Mid Summer) is celebrated on 24 & 25 June.
Text: Heather Sunderland, Illustration: Bradley King