Drought-resistant mosquito brings earlier possibility of West Nile virus to Alberta

Click to play video: 'A new drought-resistant mosquito carries West Nile virus into Alberta'
A new drought-resistant mosquito carries West Nile virus into Alberta
WATCH: A local expert says don’t expect a drought to save us from mosquitoes this year. A drought-resistant variety that carries the West Nile virus has appeared in Alberta and it strikes earlier in the year than most. Doug Vaessen reports – Apr 15, 2024

A local expert on mosquitoes says a drought this summer may not bring the relief it used to from the hungry insects.

John Swann is a former entomologist professor at the University of Calgary and currently an expert for ABI Environmental Services. He says a newer type of mosquito found in Edmonton and Calgary apparently may be resistant to hot, dry conditions.

“We are in a drought so you would expect the mosquito population overall would be lower this year,” Swann said.

“The problem is the new kid on the block, which is culex pipiens, which has gradually moved up north here. It is called either the northern house mosquito or the common house mosquito. It does well in urban environments and actually does great in warm, dry conditions.”

Even worse, says Swann, its numbers appear to be on the rise, and it is a noted carrier of the West Nile virus.

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“It used to be mosquitoes that really cause West Nile, that are native, show up in June, late June, July. This thing is showing up in May,” said Swann. “These things will mature in a week from an egg to an adult and they will bite you.”

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

The City of Calgary says it is too soon to know just how bad a year it will be for mosquitoes.

Rachelle Nuytten is a spokesperson for parks and open spaces for the City of Calgary.

“We actually haven’t started our mosquito monitoring program quite yet here in Calgary. Over the next couple of weeks, we will start to do that and get a better sense of what numbers we will have this year.”

Nuytten says it’s never too early to stop mosquitoes from moving into your yard.

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“It’s removing all the shallow stagnant water, and also regularly going out to empty bird baths, empty flower pots, anything that could be collecting rain water.”

Mosquitoes carry West Nile virus after biting infected birds.

Alberta Health says one in five people who become infected with West Nile can suffer serious effects. The most at risk are those over the age of 50.

Swann says he knows the dangers firsthand.

“I know someone that had it that actually had to retire because neurologically they could barely function. It can be very dangerous. The neurological affects, it can even kill people. At the same time, other people can get it and it’s just a cold.”

The City of Calgary says take precautions; wear lighter colours, avoid dawn and dusk if possible and use mosquito repellent.

Swann says the repellent is most effective if it has DEET or Icaridine as an ingredient.

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