Slap it, send it: UBC researcher wants you to mail him dead mosquitoes for climate change study
Dan Peach says climate change may have pushed more blood-sucking insects into B.C. and Yukon
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For most of us, the buzz of a pesky mosquito can be torturous, but for Vancouver-based scientist Dan Peach, it's music to his ears.
Peach, an entomologist at the University of British Columbia, is working on a citizen-led project to find out how many species of the oft-swatted pest live provincewide, and what diseases they might carry.
He says there are about 50 known species in B.C., but there are gaps in the knowledge researchers have about the distribution of both native and invasive mosquitoes, and he's asking people to help scientists learn more.
Peach says he suspects there are half a dozen mosquito species that are now circulating in British Columbia and Yukon but haven't been confirmed.
"There are parts of the province that have never been surveyed. There are parts of the province that have been surveyed by experts decades ago and they said, 'Oh, I think this might be something new,' but they never had a chance to follow up on it," Peach said.
To participate in his study, the instructions are pretty basic: Slap it and send it.
'World's deadliest animal'
Peach and his colleagues at his UBC lab want you to mail them your squished blood-sucking casualties so they can take a look.
He says he is particularly concerned about mosquitoes that could be migrating to Canada from the south because of climate change, and then spreading diseases like West Nile fever.
"They absolutely are the world's deadliest animal," Peach said to host Sarah Penton on CBC's Radio West.
"They've killed approximately half of all people that have ever lived."
Peach is asking mosquito-mailers to provide information about when and where the insects were killed. The data will be used to build current distribution maps and to model species distribution shifts in the future.
He said that after receiving the samples, he and his teammates will grind the insects up and extract their DNA to identify the species and add them to a database.
He recommends people fold the carcasses in a piece of paper. They don't even have to be that fresh to be valuable.
"As long as they're from the summer, a few weeks to a month, it should be fine," Peach said.
Mosquitoes more pervasive when climate changes
Experts warn that mosquitoes will become more pervasive during spring and summer in British Columbia when warmer climate triggers faster melting of snow and more frequent flooding, creating perfect conditions for more mosquitoes to hatch.
In 2015, researchers from Simon Fraser University and the Burnaby pest control company Culex Environmental Ltd. found the mosquito species Aedes japonicus, which can cause serious diseases like La Crosse encephalitis and West Nile fever, had been established in B.C.'s Lower Mainland, and said it would likely be found in other parts of the province.
Although the study said the mosquito could pose a significant threat, Culex employee Michael Jackson, the study's lead investigator, said there wasn't yet any risk to the public.
"[The mosquito] is capable of carrying particular diseases only if that disease is present, and none of the diseases it carries are present," he said to CBC News in 2015.
To contribute to Peach's fact-finding mosquito mission, you can mail your samples to:
The Ben Matthews lab, UBC Department of Zoology, 4200-6270 University Blvd., Vancouver, B.C. V6T 1Z4.
With files from Radio West