Out for blood: Edmonton hits peak mosquito season

Edmonton has hit peak mosquito season, but it's nearly half the 20-year average for this time of year and pales in comparison to the worst season in the 1980s.

Mosquito population nearly half the 20-year average for Edmonton

Mike Jenkins, Edmonton's resident pest expert, investigates a light trap on the grounds of Beechmount Cemetery. The city has hit peak mosquito season, but the traps are catching fewer mosquitoes than the 20-year average. (Nathan Gross/CBC)

Edmonton has hit peak mosquito season, according to the city's resident pest expert. 

The light traps installed around Edmonton caught an average of nearly 170 biting mosquitoes in the first week of August, according to city data. The record-breaking rainfall in July and warmer weather in recent weeks is a fertile combination for the blood-sucking pest. 

Mike Jenkins, pest management coordinator, says the early counts show city light traps caught an average of 200 mosquitoes last week. 

"We've probably reached our peak around this time," he said on Thursday. 

The mosquito counts are lower than usual for Edmonton. A trap, on average, catches roughly 400 mosquitoes a week by mid-August over the past 20 years, according to city data.

But mosquitoes can still put a damper on plans in the river valley, even if the city-wide population appears to have dwindled this year.

"A little bit it bothers, for sure," said Tayssir Alkhatib, while picnicking at Hawrelak Park on Thursday. 

"You're here to have a good time and then you have to start moving around," he said, mimicking a swatting motion. 

Slow start to mosquito season

The dry weather in May and several cool nights in June stunted mosquito development early this season, Jenksins said.

The traps rarely caught more than 10 mosquitoes a week in May and June. 

The rainfall last month — the wettest July since 1982 — along with warmer weather helped boost the mosquito population. The light traps have been catching over 100 mosquitoes since mid-July. 

"It'll probably level off or start declining now," said Jenkins, as mosquitoes stop breeding and start preparing for winter.

The mosquito season to date pales in comparison to the 1980s, Jenkins noted, when traps routinely caught over 4,000 mosquitoes a week. A much higher mark than the expected peak of around 200 this year. 

"Back in the '80s, in particular, that would've barely been a blip on the radar," Jenkins said.