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Edmonton’s mosquito population could double without use of aerial control program

Click to play video: 'Edmonton learning more about how many mosquitoes the city should brace for this summer' Edmonton learning more about how many mosquitoes the city should brace for this summer
WATCH ABOVE: We're learning more about just how many mosquitoes Edmontonians can expect this summer, and it's a lot. The city chose to stop some spraying and rely more on natural pest controls. As Sarah Komadina explains, it's expected to take years for these new methods to work – Apr 8, 2022

The city’s pest management coordinator said it’s possible Edmonton’s mosquito population could double without the use of the aerial control program.

During a council meeting on Monday, council voted 7-4 in favour of doing away with the aerial mosquito control program, which 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.

Instead, the city will focus on education and other biological interventions to help control the mosquito population.

Read more: Edmonton city council eliminates aerial mosquito control program

During a media availability on Friday afternoon, the city’s pest management coordinator Mike Jenkins said about 50 per cent of the efficacy of the city’s overall mosquito control came through the aerial program, meaning there could be approximately double the number of mosquitoes buzzing around this summer than usual.

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“Certainly within the areas that used to be covered by the aerial program, we are going to see development of larvae and mosquitoes emerging from those,” Jenkins explained.

“The mosquitoes that will emerge from those (areas), some of those are expected to migrate into the city. So we do anticipate seeing more of those mosquitoes entering the city than we would have if we had the aerial program.

“We don’t really know for certain as we haven’t actually done this before having only the ditch and ground and not the aerial.”

Click to play video: 'Edmonton city council eliminates aerial mosquito control program' Edmonton city council eliminates aerial mosquito control program
Edmonton city council eliminates aerial mosquito control program – Apr 5, 2022

Jenkins said about 85-90 per cent of the larvicide used in the city’s overall mosquito control program was through aerial controls. He noted the pesticide used by the city is federally approved, and the most ecologically effective, environmentally safe product available worldwide.

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Without the aerial program, the city stressed it will still use federally approved pesticides to target mosquito larvae through ground and ditch control. This method targets mosquito larvae developing in temporary bodies that form from snowmelt and rainfall in ditches and low-lying areas near roads, shared paths, sidewalks, powerlines and other utility corridors.

City officials said it’s too early yet to determine what the mosquito season might hold for Edmonton, as it’s largely dependent on the amount of precipitation the city receives. However, Jenkins noted the city is in not bad shape right now.

“It absolutely could change, but at this point it’s not looking like we’re having as much mosquito development out there that we could have with the amount of snow we had,” Jenkins said.

The shift to a more natural approach

The $500,000 in funding that was formerly dedicated to the aerial program will instead be reinvested in biological control.

“Through an increased emphasis to a natural approach to mosquito control, we will help increase biodiversity within our city while assuring Edmontonians they are still able to enjoy parks, open spaces and outdoor activities,” said Philip Herritt, director of infrastructure operations.

Read more: Going natural: how to ward off pesky mosquitoes without chemicals

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The city said it will work to develop habitats that allow animals that feed on mosquitoes — like bats and dragonflies — to flourish. This includes a pilot program that will see 50 bat houses installed throughout the city.

Developing and naturalizing stormwater facilities where dragonflies tend to develop is also planned.

Jenkins admits some of the natural interventions could take years to have a meaningful impact.

“There will almost certainly be some delay. Any natural control methods — bat boxes, things along those lines — could take quite some time. It could be several years for some of them to develop to the level that we’re hoping to get them to,”  he explained.

Jenkins noted several things people can do on their own properties to try to keep the pesky biters at bay. Residents should remove stagnant water from their backyards and eavestroughs, cover rail barrels with lids or screens to keep mosquitoes from laying eggs, and replenish bird baths and pools so they don’t become stagnant.

“Stagnant water is a common place where mosquito larvae can grow,” he explained.

Read more: Victoria’s Secret perfume is an effective mosquito repellent, study suggests

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People are also encouraged to cover up with long pants and sleeves, use insect repellent and use an oscillating fan on the patio to keep mosquitoes away.

“Moving air deters mosquitoes more than most available products,” Jenkins said.

The city said it will continue to monitor mosquito populations and ramp up ground and ditch controls when necessary. A public education campaign is also planned in hopes of teaching residents environmentally friendly ways of keeping the ankle biters away, while not resorting to harmful chemicals.

“We are expecting probably more mosquitoes in the short-term,” Jenkins said. “Hopefully long-term, the numbers will be able to be reduced significantly.”

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi, pihêsiwin Coun. Tim Cartmell, sipiwiyniwak Coun. Sarah Hamilton and tastawiyiniwak Coun. Karen Principe were the four members of council who voted in favour of keeping the aerial mosquito program in place.

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