Never ending battle against mosquitoes set to start once again

Starting in the next few weeks, the City of Whitehorse and a dozen Yukon communities will begin the annual battle against the invasion of mosquitoes in the territory.

Starting in the next few weeks, the City of Whitehorse and a dozen Yukon communities will begin the annual battle against the invasion of mosquitoes in the territory.

As the snow melts and ponds, puddles and swamps begin to flood their banks, the Yukon’s mosquitoes will start to hatch.

For the last few decades, the job of keeping that population under control has been given to D.G. Regan and Associates out of Langley, B.C.

Mother Nature does her best to keep mosquitoes at bay naturally, said president Curtis Fediuk. They get eaten by birds, bats and fish.

But the bugs’ defence is to “hatch in numbers that are so large even Mother Nature couldn’t control them.”

According to Fediuk a coffee cup of water could have 100 mosquitoes in it.

“It doesn’t matter how many birds or bats you’ve got. If you’ve got a soccer field-area full of that many mosquitoes you’re talking billions,” he said.

“There’s just no way that somebody’s going to find and eat those billions of mosquitoes in the next three days before they disperse in the neighbourhood.”

The company helps Mother Nature out using Vectobac, a natural bacteria that’s deadly to mosquito and black fly larvae but won’t harm other animals that eat it.

Fediuk calls the discovery of the bacteria in the 1970s the “silver bullet” of mosquito control. It has been used in the Yukon since about 1985.

It’s grown in giant vats “like yogurt,” he said. It only becomes active when mixed with the unique PH levels inside the mosquito’s stomach and causes holes or ulcers in the bugs’ stomach wall.

The bacteria will be dropped into water around Whitehorse and the communities starting in April. The program runs until about August.

Big bodies of water will get treated from helicopters while smaller spots, anything from water traps on golf courses to large tire ruts, will be treated by people on the ground.

Fediuk estimates his company will cover about 600 hectares around Whitehorse and about the same amount spread out over the rest of the communities.

“In a typical community we usually look within a kilometre or two kilometres of the community and identify the priority habitats,” he said.

In the Yukon, the most common type of mosquito is of the Aedes variety. Those mosquitoes lay their eggs in the dirt and mud at the edge of bodies of water.

When the banks flood because of melting snow or heavy rain, for example, the water can trigger the eggs to hatch.

But in the case of the Aedes mosquito, eggs don’t always hatch the first time they get wet. They can last in the dirt up to 20 years, Fediuk said.

No program is going to completely wipe out mosquitoes, and it’s important to continue treating for the bugs even if it looks like they’re under control, he said, because populations can bounce back quickly.

This year the Department of Community Services spent about $100,000 on mosquito control outside of Whitehorse. The communities pay about a third of that cost back to the department, officials say.

Whitehorse city council just awarded Fediuk’s company another three-year mosquito control contract. The deal is worth $62,985 each year.

Communities have mosquito control programs for comfort, economic and health reasons, Fediuk said.

“It’s either so the public can enjoy the summer, or for sports associations, or businesses,” he said.

“If you’ve got a campground or a restaurant with an outside patio, if nobody sits down and has lunch you’re not in business for very long.”

Residents with water on their property that has been treated in the past will be getting a knock on the door soon to see if they want to take part in the program again this year, he said.

The company will also speak to anyone who wants to have their property added to the programs.

Residents in Whitehorse can call the city at 633-BITE. Residents outside of Whitehorse can call 667-5811.

A full list of the communities participating in the 2016 mosquito control program can be found on the Yukon Department of Community Services website.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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