The beginning of June marks the unofficial start of the mosquito season in Canada, with large groups of tiny vampires preparing to invade picnics, barbecues, and other outdoor activities. Heavy rainfall, coupled with rising temperatures, will cause mosquito populations to explode in the following weeks, entomologists expecting to see multiple distinct peaks between June and September.
Although, in Canada, we often joke that the mosquito is our national bird, mosquitoes are not a laughing matter in most parts of the world. Despite their size and fragility, they cause more human deaths – about 725,000 every year – than some of the biggest predators on the planet, such as sharks, wolves, lions, elephants, and crocodiles, combined. By comparison, sharks only kill ten people a year, crocodiles 1,000, and snakes 50,000.
The reason mosquitoes cause most human suffering on the planet is because they are effective carriers of pathogens that may cause devastating diseases such as malaria, dengue, yellow fever, various forms of encephalitis, and the notorious West Nile virus.
Among pest-borne diseases, malaria is by far the worst. Threatening almost half (3.2 billion) of the world’s population, the disease accounts for nearly 600,000 deaths and almost 200 million clinical episodes per year. In high-burden countries, malaria causes billions of dollars in lost productivity annually, trapping “families and communities in a downward spiral of poverty and disproportionately affecting poor people who […] have limited access to health care.”
Fortunately, there is no malaria transmission in Canada today, concerns regarding the disease being limited to tourists, particularly overseas travelers. The mosquito-borne illnesses that have recently become a growing problem in the Americas, indirectly affecting Canadians traveling to tourist hotspots such as Cuba and St. Martin, include dengue infections and Chikungunya fever, both spread by Aedes mosquitoes.
The West Nile virus is, however, the disease that presents the greatest domestic danger. Transmitted by the Culex mosquitoes that feed on the blood of infested birds and subsequently bite humans, the disease was first reported in Ontario, Canada, in 2002, when it caused a great deal of concern by killing 14 people. Since then, cases have been reported in several Canadian provinces, including British Columbia, Quebec, Alberta, Manitoba, and others.
People who are under the impression that they get bitten more than others are not imagining it. Studies have shown that an estimated 20 percent of people are high attractor types for the little buggers, while others rarely get bitten. Most important factors that reel mosquitoes in include:
Canadian homeowners who want to avoid mosquito bites this summer should start by eliminating all bodies of standing water and humid soil in order to cut down on the available habitat. Pools and ponds, as well as flower pots and gutters, have the potential to turn into breeding sites for the tiny critters. Contact your local pest control company to help identify and eliminate potential problem areas on your property, and also discuss safe, non-toxic methods of removing existing populations from your home and garden.
About the Author
Daniel Mackie, co-owner of Greenleaf Pest Control, is a Toronto pest control expert well-known as an industry go-to guy, an innovator of safe, effective pest control solutions, and is a regular guest on HGTV. Mackie, along with business partner Sandy Costa, were the first pest control professionals in Canada to use detection dogs and thermal remediation for the successful eradication of bed bugs. In his free time, he is an avid garde