What's the buzz on mosquitoes? A MUN study is aiming to find out

Very little is known about the mosquito population in Newfoundland and Labrador, so a Memorial University study is probing those pesky little insects.

Little is known about mosquitos in N.L.

Tegan Padgett is part of study that's looking at what kinds of mosquitoes are in Newfoundland and Labrador and what types of viruses they may carry. (Jonny Hodder/CBC)

A study at Memorial University is probing those pesky insects that leave us with red, itchy bumps while trying to enjoy summer weather.

Once the spring weather begins, mosquitoes will be commonly seen swarming in the air, and despite their prevalence, very little is known about the mosquito population in Newfoundland and Labrador, including what species exist and what diseases they carry.

Tegan Padgett, project coordinator with Newfoundland and Labrador Mosquito Project, says there is a lot to learn.

It's a really important public health issue to have data on and that's what we're really missing.- Tegan Padgett

"They're a public health risk, potentially, and something that we need to know about. Maybe if there's not necessarily a risk at this moment, there might be a bigger risk in the future, especially with changing ranges and distributions changing," she said.

"But it's a really important public health issue to have data on and that's what we're really missing, there's very patchy mosquito data around the province and it's really important to get that bulked up so that we have a better idea of what we're dealing with."

Padgett said it isn't known just how many species of mosquitoes there are in the province or what sort of viruses they might carry, but the Newfoundland and Labrador Mosquito Project will hopefully get some details on that.

"There have been some studies in the past that have detected certain viruses that we're also focusing on for this study," she said. 

"But we're actually the only province in Canada that hasn't detected West Nile virus, and it was just recently detected in the Maritimes last year, so it's an important to be able to possibly, potentially detect that virus if it is in fact here."

Last year's short, dry summer was a tough one for mosquitoes — and mosquito researchers. (CBC)

Padgett said the study began last year, but a short, dry summer made conditions difficult for mosquitoes.

Now, researchers are hoping for better weather and looking for people to collect mosquitoes from across the province

"We're trying to get as many mosquito samples from as many different areas across the province as we can," said Padgett.

"Being a team of five or six people, it's hard to get around everywhere, so that's why we're really reaching out to the communities and the public."

She said people can contact her for a collection kit so they can be processed at MUN.

"The cool thing about it is, I will then — once the samples are processed, I will email back the results of the mosquito identification, so they'll know how many mosquitoes and what species they caught."

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from the St. John's Morning Show

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