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Yukon sees most mosquitoes in 'many years,' control program says

It may not come as a surprise, but Yukon has seen an unusually high number of mosquitoes this year — and they aren't physically distancing.

Wet weather has been great for the biting bugs

A mosquito feasts on its prey. (Daniel Peach)

Are you having an itchy summer?

Yukon has seen an unusually high number of mosquitoes this year — and they aren't physically distancing.

"These are some of the highest numbers we've had in many, many years," said Curtis Fediuk, president of Duka Environmental Services, which manages Yukon's mosquito control program.

Staff are catching "five to seven times" more mosquito samples than usual, said Fediuk, who believes this could be the worst season of the past 10 to 20 years.

Weather 'ideal' for mosquitoes

The mosquito control program applies larvicide, an insecticide specifically targeted against the larval life stage of an insect, to ponds and swamps where larvae are known to develop, said Fediuk

But this year's wet weather means mosquitoes are developing in areas they typically wouldn't, he said, with cool temperatures and higher water levels triggering eggs to hatch.

Eggs could be hatching that were laid two to three years ago, said Dan Peach, who researches mosquitoes as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia.

Peach says warm, wet weather is generally the best combination for mosquitoes, allowing the larvae to develop more quickly.

'Perfect storm for people to be annoyed'

Yukoners may also be more aware of the bugs after spending the months inside during the COVID-19 pandemic, Fediuk said.

"It's kind of a perfect storm for people to be annoyed by mosquitoes."

Fediuk is based in British Columbia, and says the bugs are bad in that province as well. 

Hot, dry weather is a natural mosquito killer, Fediuk said, and a week of those conditions could go a "long way" in reducing the numbers.

Mosquitoes 'actually quite pretty,' scientist says

Whitehorse wildlife biologist Maria Leung agrees "this is among the worst" years for mosquitoes. But, she says "we've had other bad years" — and disagrees that this year is the worst in two decades.

Plus, she says, the mosquito surge isn't all bad — at least not for bats and dragonflies.

"It's food for other types of life and that's good," she said.

Despite their itchy bites, Peach said it's important to consider the other parts of mosquito's life cycle — and their more attractive attributes.

"Many of them are actually quite pretty if you get them under a magnifying glass," he said.

Dan Peach says he discovered the cattail marsh mosquito in Yukon for the first time in 2019. 'It also has some white bands on it that are kind of pretty,' he said in an email. (Courtesy of Sean McCann)

Get rid of standing water

To keep mosquitoes at bay, Fediuk recommends getting rid of any standing water where larvae could develop, such as buckets or tires collecting water near your home.

Mosquitoes don't like flying in wind or mist, he said, so put out a fan and use a misting wand if you're spending time outside.

Wear light-coloured clothing, buy a citronella candle or mosquito coil, and spray on the repellent, he says.

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