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Edmonton, Alberta teeming with mosquitoes


About 10,000 hectares have been treated so far this year.
About 10,000 hectares have been treated so far this year.

Jill Colton, staff writer

July 18, 2011 — Mosquito populations in Edmonton, Alberta have exploded after a stretch of wet weather.

Wet weather creates the perfect breeding ground for the pesky insects.
Wet weather creates the perfect breeding ground for the pesky insects.

Mosquitoes are out for blood in a big way across Edmonton. Residents are swatting away more of the pesky insects than they have in almost 30 years.

“This is one of the highest amounts of mosquitoes we've seen,” says a concerned Jenny Wheeler, director of forestry and environment for the City of Edmonton. “Years ago we had quite a peak -- it's not as high, but close to,” she adds.

The city faced a substantially wet June -- 190 per cent more precipitation than normal -- along with a recent stretch of rainfall in July, leading to loads of standing water areas.

“This means more potential breeding sites, and because we haven't had this kind of moisture around, there's a lot of eggs just sitting around dormant just waiting for this kind of weather and now they're emerging,” explains Wheeler.

The city is swarming with the bloodsuckers, but despite the treatments, they continue to hatch at an unprecedented rate. Wheeler says that average trap count suddenly rose to 569 this week, from 30 last week. And 3-1-1, the provincial information line, is receiving an average of 14 calls a day from irritated residents who want the problem abolished.

The pesky bugs even forced the Edmonton Eskimos football team to move indoors for practice this week. But the city is working overtime to compensate for the 'skeeter' boom.

“We've treated 10,000 hectares so far this year -- we're into our third campaign -- we're up quite a bit on treatments,” says Wheeler.

Primetime for mosquitoes? Keep your pet indoors.
Primetime for mosquitoes? Keep your pet indoors.

Crews are also conducting dip checks: visiting breeding sites to find how many mosquito larvae are there. Those bodies of water that have ten or more are treated.

Despite the excessive amount of bugs, officials are careful to only treat under the proper conditions. “We use helicopters, but if it gets windy or starts to rain that means our helicopters are no longer in the air,” Wheeler says.

Meanwhile, mosquito populations are way down in Winnipeg, Manitoba -- a city notorious for the biters. Officials attribute the low numbers to a cool spring and dry July. For the first time in years, delighted local residents say they are even skipping the bug spray some mornings.

“Normally, you're walking through a field and you're swinging your hands around and trying to keep alive for an hour standing in a field. Now, there's absolutely nothing bugging us,” local resident Peter Philips told Winnipeg media.

But for those still smacking away mosquitoes in Edmonton, Wheeler says there are some things you can do in your own backyard.

“If you have any tires dump them out. Ponds are great, but make sure the water is circulating and make sure you drain your eavestroughs.”

No matter how many bugs you encounter, do your best to enjoy the summer weather -- “just don't forget your DEET repellent.”

With files from CTV

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