Dry conditions mean a slow start to mosquito season in Edmonton

Click to play video: 'Dry conditions mean a slow start to mosquito season in Edmonton'
Dry conditions mean a slow start to mosquito season in Edmonton
As Edmontonians have come to learn year in and year out, everything could change with mosquito season depending on how much precipitation the city gets — but as of mid-April, it's been a slow start for skeeters. Kabi Moulitharan reports – Apr 10, 2024

Edmonton’s resident bug expert says the city is in for a slow start to mosquito season this year.

Mike Jenkins, a senior scientist with the City of Edmonton’s pest management laboratory, said ground crews will start this year’s mosquito control program this week, targeting larvae in standing water and ditches in and around the city.

“We’re treating that with larvicide that is intended to kill off the mosquito larvae but is non-toxic to pretty much all of the other organisms,” Jenkins said Wednesday morning.

“It uses a product developed from soil bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, or BTI for short, and it’s got a protein that’s specifically toxic just to mosquito larvae and kills those off, reduces the number of mosquito larvae that are developing in those pools so then, of course, we have fewer mosquitoes emerging from the pools, which results in lower numbers of mosquitoes around the city.”

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Because of the “incredibly dry” conditions in Edmonton right now, Jenkins said so far, the mosquito populations are quite low.

“We’re not seeing a lot of habitat out there and even where we are finding water, we’re not finding a lot of mosquito activity in those ponds yet,” Jenkins said. “We are expecting to get good control of mosquito larvae where they’re developing.

“At this point, we’re not expecting a lot of mosquito activity in the spring.”

Click to play video: 'Putting fact to mosquito myths'
Putting fact to mosquito myths

However, as Edmontonians have come to learn year in and year out, everything could change depending on how much precipitation the city gets.

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“It’s really hard to predict what’s going to happen without knowing what’s going to happen in terms of rainfall,” Jenkins said. “Our summer mosquitoes in particular are driven almost entirely by rainfall. So if we get lots of rain, we get lots of mosquitoes. If it’s warm, we get more activity of mosquitoes as well.

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“Warm and wet means more mosquitoes, cold and dry generally means fewer mosquitoes.”

Jenkins said this spring is shaping up to be similar to the last few springs, with lower mosquito counts. The City of Edmonton is not doing aerial mosquito control this year, as the program was discontinued a couple of years ago.

“This would be about the fourth or fifth year in a row we would not have brought in the helicopters even if we had helicopters,” Jenkins said.

City crews will monitor larvae populations and adapt the mosquito control program as the season goes on, depending on the weather.

“By going after the larval stages of mosquitoes shortly after the rainfall, it’s a much more effective means of controlling the mosquito population than waiting until they’re already adults and out and flying,” Jenkins said.

“We don’t do what’s called adulticiding, which happens in some communities where they go and basically sort of fog neighbourhoods to try to reduce the adult mosquito population. Larviciding is a much more proactive means of controlling the mosquito population.”

People can help control the mosquito populations on their own properties by clearing areas where water can collect and become stagnant, including:

  • eavestroughs
  • birdbaths and water fountains
  • fish ponds and ornamental pools
  • rubber tires stored outside
  • areas of ground where puddles naturally form

“It’s important in backyards, in particular, to empty out all bird baths, clean out all eavestroughs, make sure that rain barrels are screened. Just make sure that there’s no habitat in the backyard where those mosquitoes are able to develop,” Jenkins said.

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If and when those pesky mosquitoes do emerge, people can use the following tips to try to avoid getting bitten:

  • avoid outdoor activity during dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active
  • cover up with long pants and sleeves
  • use insect repellent
  • run an oscillating fan when outside, as moving air can be effective at discouraging mosquitoes from coming around

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