City mosquito count sky­rock­ets due to ‘per­fect storm’ con­di­tions

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - TODD SAELHOF

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.”

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