Edmonton city council eliminates aerial mosquito control program

Click to play video: 'Changes coming to mosquito control in Edmonton'
Changes coming to mosquito control in Edmonton
WATCH ABOVE: When enjoying the outdoors in Edmonton this summer, it could be with more mosquitos. City council has voted to change the way it will handle the annoying pests. Sarah Komadina has the details. – Apr 6, 2022

Edmonton city council has voted to do away with a program that aims to fight the mosquito population by air.

During a council meeting on Monday, papastew Coun. Michael Janz brought forward a motion to cease the use of the aerial mosquito control program.

Janz said at a recent committee meeting, councillors heard from a number of speakers about their concerns with the program, both from an environmental and financial perspective.

“We heard — even with this program — there were good summers and there were bad summers, depending on the weather, depending on other measures,” Janz said Monday. “What we need to do is educate Edmontonians about their individual role that their property plays in the mosquito problem.”

Click to play video: 'How do you avoid mosquito bites? Edmonton elementary school students weigh in'
How do you avoid mosquito bites? Edmonton elementary school students weigh in

The aerial program uses a helicopter to drop pesticides into temporary and stagnant water bodies in control areas around Edmonton. The goal is to kill the larvae before they hatch, reducing the pesky adult biting populations.

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City council decided Monday to shift away from the use of pesticides toward education and other biological interventions to help control the mosquito population. Things like bat boxes, increasing the dragonfly population and using an oscillating fan in the backyard were suggested. Edmontonians are also encouraged to remove any still, stagnant bodies of water from their properties.

The aerial mosquito program cost about $500,000 per year, which will be reinvested in biological controls.

“I’d hope that through education and through biological interventions like bat boxes — reintroducing bats, reintroducing natural predators of mosquitoes like dragon flies — hoping that this can lead to a situation where we’re not having to spend this three, four years from now,” Janz said.

“The more that we can take measures on our own property and in our own communities to eliminate breeding grounds for mosquitoes, we’ll have fewer mosquitoes.”

sipiwiyiniwak Coun. Sarah Hamilton was one of four councillors who voted to keep the program in place.

“Over the past four years as a city councillor I’ve heard from people that they see value in the program and especially in the last few years where people have had to spend more time outdoors, they’ve had to make use of parkland and picnic spaces as their social spaces,” Hamilton said.

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“The program had value in terms of making that a more comfortable experience.”

City administration said the aerial spray used for the program is approved by Health Canada. Administration told councillors there is no evidence of human toxicity or carcinogenic effects. It’s considered non-toxic to almost all organisms other than some related groups of aquatic flies.

Hamilton is concerned Edmontonians might turn to more harmful chemicals to control mosquitoes on their own.

“It is not targeted. It can affect all insect populations, including pollinators. It can affect other wildlife and domestic animals like pets,” she said.

Last year, the city had originally cancelled the aerial mosquito control program, largely as a way to save money during the COVID-19 pandemic. But in early May, council decided to reinstate the program, saying it was an important move because there was a possibility of a 40 per cent increase in mosquito populations in outer areas of the city should wetter weather occur.

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