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Fogging refers to 'ultra-low-volume' spraying of malathion to kill mosquitoes. The chemical is approved for such use by Health Canada, but the practice has sparked controversy in previous years. ((Canadian Press))

A researcher at the University of Manitoba is looking to cut the mosquito population by sterilizing the insects.

Steve Whyard says that in other insects, when sterile males are introduced to a species, the population drops dramatically.

"They sterilize males and release them into an environment and those sterile males go out and try to compete for the females with the wild males," he said. "If you put enough sterile males out there, you can see a population crash."

So far, he has discovered the gene that produces male mosquitoes and the gene that makes them fertile.

Now he's working to see if he can turn that gene off, effectively reducing the number of mosquitoes in Winnipeg without genetically modifying them or relying on the use of chemicals, such as malathion.

The City of Winnipeg on Saturday launched its fogging program, in which it sprays a fine mist of malathion from a machine in the back of a truck as it passes through neighbourhoods.

Whyard is not against fogging but he doesn't want to see mosquitoes become resistant with overuse of the chemical.

Mosquito numbers spike

The mosquito population in Winnipeg exploded last week when the count in city-monitored traps went from dozens to hundreds — and even more in some areas. More than 1,000 mosquitoes were found in traps in Kildonan Park and Assiniboine Park.

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Heavy rains and standing water over the past month have created a perfect breeding environment for mosquitoes. ((CBC))

Health Canada suggests people in areas being sprayed take precautions, including staying indoors, closing windows and turning off the air-conditioning before the spraying starts.

When it's over, residents should wash homegrown vegetables before eating and rinse off outdoor furniture.