February 18, 2019

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New skeeters found in city

Previously unseen species bears disease

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 6/5/2010 (3209 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A black-tailed mosquito that feeds on birds and carries a potentially lethal strain of encephalitis is the second new mosquito species found in Winnipeg in the past three years.

Culiseta melanura, a mosquito never before seen north of Minneapolis, was trapped in Winnipeg in 2008 and positively identified the following year by Mahmood Iranpour, an entomologist at the National Microbiology Laboratory.

Also in 2008, city entomologist Taz Stuart confirmed the presence of a small, blue mosquito called Uranotaenia sapphirina, which carries West Nile virus but predominantly feeds on frogs and toads.

Prior to that, no new mosquito species have been found in Winnipeg since the 1940s. Iranpour and Stuart are now trying to figure out if the new skeeters are here to stay -- or are just visiting.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 6/5/2010 (3209 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Taz Stuart, City of Winnipeg entomologist at his first press conference of the season Thursday, with a spraying helicopter behind him.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Taz Stuart, City of Winnipeg entomologist at his first press conference of the season Thursday, with a spraying helicopter behind him.

A black-tailed mosquito that feeds on birds and carries a potentially lethal strain of encephalitis is the second new mosquito species found in Winnipeg in the past three years.

Culiseta melanura, a mosquito never before seen north of Minneapolis, was trapped in Winnipeg in 2008 and positively identified the following year by Mahmood Iranpour, an entomologist at the National Microbiology Laboratory.

Also in 2008, city entomologist Taz Stuart confirmed the presence of a small, blue mosquito called Uranotaenia sapphirina, which carries West Nile virus but predominantly feeds on frogs and toads.

Prior to that, no new mosquito species have been found in Winnipeg since the 1940s. Iranpour and Stuart are now trying to figure out if the new skeeters are here to stay — or are just visiting.

"There needs to be more investigation to see if it will be established," Iranpour said of C. melanura, which he found only in small numbers.

But its confirmed presence brings the number of mosquito species known to inhabit Winnipeg up to 40 and the number in Manitoba up to 50 overall.

Unlike U. sapphirina, which is not considered much of a threat to human beings, C. melanura has been monitored closely in the United States because it is known to carry eastern equine encephalitis, or EEE, a disease that kills roughly 35 per cent of the people who contract it.

C. melanura hangs around in tree canopies and feeds almost entirely on birds. It only poses a threat to people because EEE-infected birds can be bitten by "bridge vector" mosquito species that also bite human beings.

In Winnipeg, Culex tarsalis — the main culprit in the transmission of West Nile virus — could serve as a vector mosquito, said Stuart. But the presence of eastern equine encephalitis in Winnipeg is entirely theoretical at this point.

Manitoba has had cases of western equine encephalitis before, but not since 1983, Stuart said.

The movement of dangerous or destructive insects is a hot topic for environmental scientists, as the emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle — both invasive species from China — lay waste to North American hardwoods.

The widening range of insect species indigenous to North America is also seen as a possible result of climate change.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

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