Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/5/2009 (2911 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
With the province's soil saturated and temperatures rising, there are concerns that the standing water left behind in ditches and fields could provide the perfect breeding ground for the winged insects that are the bane of any outdoor-loving Manitoban.
During a flood, water is usually moving too fast and is too deep to provide much of a haven for breeding mosquitoes. But it leaves soil so wet that it doesn't take much rain to create a welcoming puddle for the pests.
Entomologist Terry Galloway said a lot still depends on the weather, but it will take a lot less rain this year to create the ideal conditions for mosquitoes to hatch.
"As the river recedes, it's going to expose all these ditches. Unless the ditches are heavily scoured, those eggs are still going to be there unhatched," said Galloway, a professor at the University of Manitoba.
"The soil is still quite saturated so the water will probably rise higher in the ditch... and the water might stay there longer, which will just guarantee that those mosquitoes will have water until they complete their development."
The province is plagued with three different species of mosquito. The first will make an appearance within weeks. Those that can carry the West Nile virus will appear later in the summer.
Manitoba mosquitoes are legendary, sometimes jokingly referred to as the provincial bird. In the town of Komarno, there is a giant metal weather vane shaped like a mosquito with a wing span of more than four metres. "Komarno" is Ukranian for mosquito.
But for the province's capital city, mosquitoes are nothing to celebrate. Winnipeg spends $5 million a year -- more than it spends fixing the city's potholes -- tracking and fighting the bugs. There are 24 mosquito traps around the city where the insects are counted by hand daily.
When mosquito populations skyrocket, Winnipeg uses every weapon in its arsenal -- from killing off the mosquito larvae with larvicide dropped from helicopters and releasing mosquito-eating dragonflies to fogging city neighbourhoods with the insecticide malathion.
Although some people can opt-out of the malathion fogging, when mosquitoes that test positive for West Nile virus turn up, the province can order fogging across the city.
"A lot of the mosquitoes that are being targeted in these control programs are nuisance mosquitoes," Galloway said. "It's just a question of being able to stand being outside without bathing in repellent or covering yourself up in protective clothing. People like to enjoy the summer."
Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz said mosquitoes don't generate many calls -- until they interfere with people's barbecues and outdoor concerts. Mosquitoes are a "reality of life" but seem to be particularly fond of Manitoba soil, he said.
"We don't have good drainage in parts of the capital region," Katz said. "You get a lot of standing water... and that's where mosquitoes go forth and multiply."
Residents are being urged to do their part and get rid of any standing water on their property while the city attacks mosquito larvae from the air with four contracted helicopters. When mosquito numbers reach the tipping point in some neighbourhoods, Katz said, fogging will begin.
Despite all the predictions, Katz said no one really has a good idea of how vicious the mosquitoes will be until June.
"A lot of it depends on Mother Nature," he said. "So far, so good."
-- The Canadian Press