This summer, it seems as if people are returning from cottages and decks looking more stressed than normal from defending themselves against marauding squadrons of mosquitoes. Complaints about itchy, swelling bites are up, too. But is this summer actually worse than normal when it comes to those pesky flying bloodsuckers?
Experts from across Canada – expect for Winnipeg – agree that this season’s swarms of mosquitoes are generally larger. Edmonton in particular has seen clouds of them. During the week of July 19, the city netted 1,100 nuisance mosquitoes in its traps, which is almost four times the average weekly count from last summer.
“Mosquitoes have been the main topic of anecdotal conversation for most people in the city of Edmonton this year,” said Mike Jenkins, a biological sciences technician in the Alberta capital. “Actually, I went up to Yellowknife at one point, and even up there … the main topic of conversation was the mosquitoes in Edmonton.”
British Columbia and Nova Scotia have also reported higher counts than normal. Andrew Hebda, curator of zoology at Nova Scotia’s Museum of Natural History, says the province will likely see six to seven generations of mosquitoes this season, compared to the regular four to five. British Columbia’s Centre for Disease Control, meanwhile, captured more than 3,000 in the Okanagan Valley area the week of July 25.
“We’ve seen a huge peak in the last few weeks, way more than we’ve seen in the last four or five years,” said Bonnie Henry, the medical director of vector-based diseases at B.C.’s CDC.
Ms. Henry added that the most plagued spots are the suburbs and B.C.’s Interior. Larger urban centres haven’t had it so bad, because it’s harder for mosquitoes to breed within the city where there are fewer pools and small basins of water.
“We have seen some in Vancouver and people have noticed them – and most years in the city of Vancouver, people wouldn’t have even noticed them,” said Ms. Henry. “The interior part of British Columbia is seeing tons of mosquitoes.”
Toronto, experiencing its usual estimated summer population of 40,000 to 60,000, has faired fairly well. But mosquito-related complaining seems to be on the rise.
“I think people forget how many mosquitoes they are exposed to from year to year,” said Danny Kartzalis, a Toronto Public Health official, adding that it may be worse outside of the city in regions that got more rain in the spring.
Rain in the spring certainly has Winnipeg residents worried that their normally robust mosquito populations would be too much to handle this summer. But because of colder temperatures, they haven’t actually seen that many. For example, traps in Winnipeg only caught approximately 168 mosquitoes for the first week of August, a fraction of the normal amount.
“It’s been a fantastic summer to date,” said Taz Stuart, the city of Winnipeg’s entomologist, adding that the city experienced a really dry July, with only 10 to 15 millilitres of rain, which is far below the seasonal norm of 70 to 80 ml.
“But that doesn’t mean our season is over. [If]we happen to get three or more inches of rain real quick, that would change the scene quite quickly” said Mr. Stuart. “I’m not saying in any way, shape or form that the season is done. We’ve still got six weeks to go.”
As people frantically slather on calamine lotion and trade tips on repellants, Globe Life decided to investigate five of the more ridiculous mosquito myths with our country’s leading authorities.