Mosquitos earlier every year

The battle against mosquitos has been starting earlier and earlier each year for the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen, with this year being no exception. 

"We’re in February and I’m seeing the water starting to rise west of the Dale Meadows playing fields [in Summerland], so I thought 'Here we go,'" Cindy Boehm, one of just two mosquito control crew members, told the RDOS board Thursday during their annual program report. 

Together with Zoe Kirk, public works projects coordinator, they decided to start testing and treating areas with their natural, granular larvicide which doesn't harm fish or other wildlife on March 11, the earliest start yet. 

"To try and get ahead of that first really big biomass hatch," Kirk explained. 

They experimented with using the larvicide on partially frozen ponds and standing water, and to their delight, the technique worked. 

"We started up high and we moved down, and it worked fantastic. It really set us up for a season where we weren’t playing catch-up as we had in the past," Boehm said. 

Also new this year was larvae identification, with samples shipped in isopropyl alcohol to an entomologist in Victoria, partly with the aim of catching outbreaks of potentially harmful species that could carry West Nile virus. 

Kirk said climate change has driven the diversity of mosquito species in the area and their ability to spread, one of the unpredictable factors the crews must fight against each year. 

"A week of record-breaking temperatures [in March] noted temperatures rise to over 20 C. This heat wave trigged the simultaneous hatching of millions of floodwater mosquito larvae. With crews already on the ground, they were able to respond rapidly," reads the annual report. 

A chart, seen below, illustrates the dramatic change in pesticide requirements year over year, further demonstrating that unpredictability. 

Starting early and being vigilant is one side of the program, but public education is just as key. Stagnant water, like a small amount pooled in the bottom of a boat or a neglected pond, can be ideal breeding grounds for larvae throughout the summer. 

The RDOS provides mosquito control on private property only when invited, so property owners are asked to keep an eye out, as the most effective population control is when early mass hatches are reduced. 

For more information on the program, click here

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