Of mice and mosquitoes: Lyme disease, West Nile risks up
Fewer bugs to slap, more mice to trap in 'banner year for rodents'
Winnipeg has enjoyed a summer of blissfully low mosquito numbers so far, but that doesn't mean all pests have vanished.
The hot, dry weather has kept mosquito trap counts down, but rodent populations are unusually high, according to Taz Stuart, director of technical operations and entomologist for Poulin's Pest Control Services.
"We've never had so many calls for mice. We're in a banner year for rodents," he said.
"And that's why other diseases, like Lyme disease, and black legged ticks are on the rise too. Because that's one of their first hosts they feed on, is the mice population."
Other pests are on the rise too, including squirrels and racoons.
The last year that saw similarly low mosquito counts was in 2007, Stuart said.
Older mosquitoes more dangerous
But, just because mosquito numbers are down, doesn't mean people shouldn't still take precautions. In August, female Culex tarsalis mosquitoes are older and more likely to be carrying the West Nile virus, Stuart said.
"Tarsalis is most active at dusk and dawn. And I say she's a sneaky biter," he said. "They are more dangerous. The actually have the virus in them, so they can actually transmit it. An older female is much more dangerous than a younger female."
A significant rainfall could still cause a spike in the mosquito numbers.
"We live in in a clay pot, is the best way I describe Winnipeg. If you have an inch of rain, you're going to have water standing on there, because it doesn't absorb as fast. So therefore, there are a lot of small sites. I literally use the glass of water analogy — one glass of water, a thousand mosquitoes. It's just that easy."
Mosquito eggs can remain dormant for up to seven years, and can hatch within seven to 10 days of a rainfall.
Stuart recommends people use bug repellent and eliminate any standing water on their properties. He also says to avoid going outside at dusk and dawn and wear long clothing.
With files from Bryce Hoye