| Posted: Wednesday, Aug 01, 2012 05:20 pm
It's not your imagination – there really are a lot of mosquitoes out there, and they just showed up this week.
That's the conclusion reached by several experts this week in regards to the mosquito infestation that's hit the Capital region. After an almost buzz-free summer, the bloodsuckers showed up en-masse on the last weekend of July, sending residents scrambling for their bug spray.
Peter Heule, head of the bug room at the Royal Alberta Museum, says he's now hosing himself down with DEET-laden repellent every time he goes outside.
"Any time I hit the grass, I'm being absolutely accosted," he said.
Edmonton's night-time light-traps caught an average of about 145 mosquitoes each last week, a record for this year, and way above the 30 they had the previous week, said Mike Jenkins, biological sciences technician with the City of Edmonton.
"About 60 per cent of our total mosquito catch for the entire year came in this last week," he said as he fended off a few of the bugs at Hawrelak Park. "It's definitely a big increase in our total mosquito population."
What's with the bugs?
The big surge was due almost entirely to the big storms we had in mid-July, said Leah Jackson, environmental manager with the City of St. Albert. That created a lot of standing water for the mosquitoes to lay their eggs, eggs that hatched last week, she said.
We didn't see any earlier this year because there wasn't a lot of snow to melt, Jackson continued — unlike in 2011, when heavy snows made for some massive swarms.
"We've been just lucky so far," she said.
Most of the mosquitoes detected in Edmonton's traps are the typical night-time biters aedes vexans, Jenkins says, unlike last year, when they found plenty of daytime-biting species.
Nor have they found any culex tarsalis – the mosquitoes known to transmit West Nile virus. Those bugs favour hot, dry conditions, which we haven't had as of late, Jenkins said.
These mosquito numbers are actually right on par with the 10-year weekly average for Edmonton at this time of year, Jenkins added, and far below the more than 300 per week the region was getting last year. Still, the city was considering spraying Hawrelak Park for adult mosquitoes in preparation for this weekend's Heritage Festival.
St. Albert does not spray for mosquitoes, as a 2005 study found few suitable breeding grounds for them in the city, Jackson said. (Big Lake is too deep and wind-swept for most mosquitoes, and swarms with mosquito-eating birds and dragonflies.)
The good news
The Capital region is also going through a dragonfly boom as there are plenty of mosquitoes for them to eat.
"It's been a good year to be a dragonfly," Heule said.
The good news is that most of these mosquitoes will be dead in about a week, Jackson said, and we shouldn't get any more unless there's another major storm.
"If you don't like it now, just give it a couple of weeks," she said.
She also recommended wearing long pants and shirts, avoiding going out at dusk or dawn (when mosquitoes are most active), and using bug repellent containing DEET.
Visit www.edmonton.ca/for_residents/pest_management for more on mosquitoes.