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Tackling mosquito breeding in Manitoba

Jill Colton, staff writer

June 20, 2011 — Southern and central Manitoba residents have spent the last few months battling severe flooding -- but now they may have a new fight on their hands.

Wet soil can provide ideal conditions for mosquito breeding.
Wet soil can provide ideal conditions for mosquito breeding.

Parts of the province are still saturated after floods ravaged the region. Officials are now concerned that water left behind can create the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Randy Gadawski, Entomologist at the Canadian Centre for Mosquito Management says flood waters themselves often hold currents and wave action -- none of which are conducive to mosquito breeding. However, flood byproducts like damp soil can become troublesome.

“Once the flood waters recede, the soil will remain saturated for an extended period of time making it vulnerable to precipitation events,” he warns.

“Moderate rainfalls will create surface water conditions -- small puddles, pools filling, roadside ditches -- those stagnant water environments are ideal conditions for mosquitoes.”

Bird bath water can be a home for mosquitoes.
Bird bath water can be a home for mosquitoes.

On the other hand, there's a chance the floods may have helped curb mosquito development.

Gadawski says heavy silting is often associated with high water levels and several inches of silt can be deposited where flooding occurs. “This has the effect of burying the mosquito eggs and making them unviable.”

But standing water sites aren't just specific to municipal properties.

Backyards often provide pockets of stagnant water perfect for larvae to flourish. Things like birdbaths, old tires and even canoes that aren't turned upside down can offer the potential for hatching.

“People may not think the mosquitoes that develop on their own property are much of a consequence, but in fact, a single old tire can bring hundreds or thousands of mosquitoes over the course of a summer.”

Additionally, because these sites reside on private property, they likely won't be uncovered and eliminated by mosquito control programs.

Gadawski believes it's up to the homeowner to recognize potential breeding spots. This way, “it's easy for them to either eliminate those sites or turn them over and get rid of those standing water environments.”

And those pesky backyard insects could do more than disrupt a barbecue by biting you.

“The mosquitos that develop in these artificial containers, things like birdbaths, rain barrels or old tires, are the species that are implicated in the vectoring of diseases.”

The province of Manitoba is plagued with three different species of mosquito. Those that carry West Nile virus will begin appearing later in the summer.

Winnipeg spends around $5 million a year tracking and fighting these harassing bugs. When mosquito populations skyrocket the city wages war on the insects by dropping larvicide from helicopters, releasing mosquito-eating dragonflies and fogging neighbourhoods.

With files from CTV

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