British Columbia

Here's why you're noticing more pesky mosquitoes in B.C. this summer

Mosquito expert Michael Jackson says weather conditions have created the "perfect storm" for the insects this year.

Weather conditions have created ideal conditions for the pests

Repellents including the chemical picaradin are recommended by experts like Michael Jackson for keeping mosquitoes away. (Shutterstock / CGN089)

If you feel like you're slapping away more mosquitoes than usual this summer, you could well be right.

Weather conditions this spring have created ideal habitats for mosquitoes to thrive in this year, according to an expert in the pesky insects, who says people should protect themselves with repellent against the more than 50 species of the bug that live in B.C.

Michael Jackson, executive director of Pender Harbour Ocean Discovery Station, said he suspects higher-than-normal snowpacks in many parts of the province caused high river levels in the spring and some flooding. This, combined with heavy rain producing pools and ponds, has created the "perfect storm for mosquitoes," he said.

Jackson also said relatively high temperatures after the snowpack melted likely caused the insects to emerge faster from bodies of water and seek out humans and animals to snack on. He said this was not the case in the past few years, when it was hotter and dryer.

"If you've got huge areas that are flooded and you've got all the right conditions, then you can get major issues," said Jackson on CBC's The Early Edition on Monday

According to Jackson, there are 53 different species of mosquitoes in B.C. and only the females bite humans. He said the bugs are attracted to light, heat and carbon dioxide.

He added that some will only target specific areas of the body, such as a species from Japan he believes was transported to B.C. by cargo ship, lives within 1.5 kilometres of the coast, and only attacks ankles.

Keeping bugs at bay

So aside from staying indoors with screens on all the windows and doors, what can you do about it?

"There are some very good repellents these days," Jackson said. But he added that probably the best known one, DEET, is one he would not recommend.

"It's a pretty nasty chemical, DEET — it melts plastic and takes paint off your car," he said.

He recommends products containing a chemical called picaridin, or icaradin, which he says poses no harm and is "extremely effective."

Jackson will also be playing a role in helping your summer be as bite free as possible by treating areas of standing water with a naturally occurring larvicide that kills mosquitoes before they hatch. 

"[We] spread it over the surface of the water and it releases slowly into the water and then the [mosquito] larvae that are in the water … take in the bacteria and it basically kills them from the inside," he said.

According to the provincial government, a permit is required for applying larvicides to fish-bearing waters.

And while people must be cognizant of both COVID-19 and blood-thirsty bugs this summer, experts say the latter cannot spread the former.

While mosquitoes can carry some viruses, they don't include the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, says the World Health Organization.

With files from The Early Edition, Ania Bessonov

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