City mosquito count skyrockets due to ‘perfect storm’ conditions
A city parks official calls it “the perfect storm.”
Calgarians, however, see it as more of a flying fiasco.
Whatever the term, the mosquito count is high in these early days of summer, thanks to the combination of warm weather and frequent thunderstorms roaring through the area.
“We’ve basically had the weather for the mosquitoes to be really bad this year, unfortunately,” said Sarah Verdiel, an integrated pest management technician with Calgary Parks. “It’s been a perfect storm.”
Indeed, it’s not a typical mosquito year.
Calgarians are seeing greater-than-average numbers of the insects, compared to recent years.
And it hasn’t helped that the coronavirus pandemic has put restrictions on movement, leading more people to stay close to home and use their local parks more often. It means Calgarians have been spending more time in areas where there are more mosquitoes.
“In a typical year, if you live along the fringes of the city — particularly along the eastern side of the city — you’re going to see a lot of mosquitoes, because there’s more potential for standing water there,” Verdiel said. “But this year, because of all the rain we’ve had and how warm it’s been, we’re seeing higher numbers of mosquitoes in places where we don’t necessarily see high numbers of mosquitoes.”
Verdiel says the city is also getting more calls from inner-city Calgarians complaining about the upswing in bloodsuckers.
“We’ve had a lot of heavy rain events, and then it’s been warm,” Verdiel continued. “Basically, most of the mosquitoes we see around here are what we call ‘flood water mosquitoes’ — they live in semi-permanent bodies of water. And when we get a lot of rain like this, we get water in depressions and places where we don’t necessarily always see water. And then if it’s warm and mosquitoes have laid their eggs in a previous period of where there was high water, you’re going to get a lot of mosquitoes.”
The city monitors the adult mosquito count using a New Jersey light trap — a metal box with a light and a fan — and/or a trap with dry ice or carbon dioxide and a fan.
But many of those traps have just been put out, says Verdiel.
The city also fights the population every spring, using helicopters to apply larvicide, a human-safe bacteria that only targets mosquito eggs.
But since Transport Canada guidelines prohibit aircraft from flying too close to homes, most of that spraying happens around the outskirts of Calgary, following along Stoney Trail. Verdiel says in a typical year, that proves to be more than sufficient spraying to help keep the numbers low around the city.
This year, though, Calgary Parks is doing more hand applications, using a backpack for more localized areas.
“The city does not treat for adult mosquitoes,” Verdiel noted. “But we do treat for mosquito larvae if we find them in the right stages.”
All this bug talk is good for exterminators in the area.
“We are benefiting from the increased mosquito numbers and activity in Calgary,” said Taz Stuart, an entomologist with Poulin’s Pest Control. “There’s been lots of thunderstorms and lots of places where water bodies have been able to be around for seven to 10 days, and mosquitoes love lots of water and heat.”
It’s enough that companies such as Poulin’s are selling products to combat the mosquito population like never before in the city.
“We’re actually selling mosquito foggers in Calgary that we’ve never sold before,” Stuart added. “When you fog your backyard, you’re actually killing the adult mosquitoes where they’re resting. And we offer backpack services of spraying, as well. It’s something that’s not really the norm for Calgary. But this year, we’re certainly seeing the numbers at the current time.”