Western Canada: Brutal Mosquito Season

Sept. 9, 2011, 11:54 a.m.




The mosquito problem in Western Canada is especially bad this year.

  Jul 5, 2011 – 6:36 PM ET

Western Canada is struggling through an unusually harsh mosquito season, with some municipalities injecting more cash and manpower in a bid to make the outdoors more bearable.

Heavy snow and rain in southern Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba in the winter and spring have created perfect puddles for mosquito breeding, their anticipated population boom hitting Edmonton especially hard after they enjoyed a near mosquito-less existence during the drought of the past decade.

“When you have a yellow dog that starts looking black, you know they’re bad,” said Leduc-area resident Tom Taylor, after he and his dog, Belle, were swarmed while training in a field.

On Monday night, Regina city council voted to throw $200,000 from its general reserve fund at taming the nuisance-causing insects.

“Up until the beginning of June we were still fine — things were OK. Then we were really inundated with rain in middle of June, that water has landed and just sat there,” said Councillor Mike O’Donnell. Residents have had to load up on repellent and patience to deal with a booming population that’s become “a real irritant,” he said.

The municipality is also being criticized for not forecasting the larger mosquito population, something it hopes to avoid next year with a budget set aside just for mosquito control —much like its snow removal budget.

The City of Edmonton’s resident insect expert, Mike Jenkins, has been busy trying to curb its burgeoning mosquito population, its biggest in 10 years. While a very dry 2008 revealed the lowest mosquito population on record, January saw an above average snowfall that caused water-cupping grooves in the ground. Heavy rainfall over the past week and a half made existing larvae-traps into mosquito breeding paradise.

“[The rain] recharged a lot of those habitats that haven’t seen water in a long long time and that triggered the hatching of our main summer nuisance species of mosquito,” he said, adding that the female insects are now looking for their “blood meals,” collecting human protein to lay more eggs.

“That population is now coming out on the wing and is definitely being felt by the citizens of Edmonton.”

Mosquito control could be even tougher next year as the city phases out its use of Dursban 3G, or chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate chemical that is considered highly toxic to mammals. As far as he knows, only Winnipeg and Edmonton still use the highly effective chemicals, while Ontario and other provinces have outlawed them.

Winnipeg kicked off control for its nuisance mosquito control season in May, and last week reduced the perimeter of its pesticide use from 100 metres to 90 in an attempt to be more environmentally friendly. As of Tuesday, the city-wide average count was 20 mosquitoes per trap.

Elsewhere in the country, the blood-sucker of a problem has not been so dire.

In the last week of June, Ottawa’s public health authorities counted fewer mosquitoes than in the same period of 2010, said the city’s Jean-Guy Albert.

Don Murray, a city forester in Fredericton, said that despite a fair amount of rain, the mosquitoes have been “tolerable.”

“People here tend to complain more about blackflies.”

National Post, with files from Edmonton Journal

John Lucas/Postmedia News

Ty Schreiner gets sprayed down by Steve Erickson earlier in the summer to counter the ravenous hordes of mosquitoes in Edmonton



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