The battle for our blood has yet to fully start in Winnipeg, but while people prepare for scratching, slapping and spraying, here are some lesser-known facts about the blood-sucking pests.
- THEY COST THE CITY MILLIONS — The city’s 2014 budget has allocated about $7.6 million for insect control, which includes larvicide and fogging and dealing with infestations of the emerald ash borer.
- THEY CAN BE DEADLY, BUT RARELY — Culex tarsalis mosquitoes can carry the West Nile virus, which can sometimes be deadly, especially for those already weakened by age or sickness. But it’s rare in Manitoba. One man in his 80s died in 2013, and before that the last death was in 2008. In 2010 and 2011, there were no reported cases of the virus in humans in Manitoba.
- THEY BIDE THEIR TIME — Mosquito eggs can lie dormant in the soil for up to seven years. They’ll hatch once they come in contact with surface ground water, but if things aren’t wet enough, they’ll sit it out until the weather is more favourable.
- THEY LIKE BEER DRINKERS — An international study found mosquitoes are more attracted to people who drink beer than those who drink just water. Typically, mosquitoes find targets through the odour of breath and skin. Having beer breath might make them more likely to choose you.
- THEY DON’T ACTUALLY FEED OFF BLOOD — Female mosquitoes don’t get any nourishment from the blood they suck. Instead, they use the protein for the eggs they lay. When they feed, both male and female mosquitoes prefer nectar and other plant sugars.
- IT’S NOT THAT BAD — The summers of 2011 and 2012 were relatively mosquito-free, whereas the summers of 1993 and 1991 were among the worst in the last three decades with peak weekly average trap counts of 926 and 781, respectively.
— Oliver Sachgau