Mosquito control efforts will begin in April throughout the territory with Duka Environmental Services contracted for the work. (Submitted/Duka Environmental Services)

Mosquito control efforts will begin in April throughout the territory with Duka Environmental Services contracted for the work. (Submitted/Duka Environmental Services)

Preparing for battle

Mosquito treatment program will get underway in April

The battle is about to begin. As early as April 12, Whitehorse will begin the fight against what some would argue is the most dreaded of the summer insects — the mosquito.

City of Whitehorse said the 2021 mosquito control program will start as early as April 12, depending on weather conditions. The Yukon government’s program in the communities is also slated to begin in April, like Whitehorse, will continue until August.

Both the City of Whitehorse and Yukon government contracts for the work is with Duka Environmental Services of Langley, B.C.

“We’re well-prepared,” Duka president Curtis Fediuk said in a March 30 interview, adding that given the record snowfall throughout much of the Yukon this year, it’s expected 2021 will be a challenging year for mosquito control.

Unlike the challenges of 2020 though, which saw a lot of rain in the territory throughout the summer, knowing how much snowpack is already there has officials getting ready, knowing it could have a big impact on mosquito populations.

How fast or slow the snow melts will also impact mosquito populations, as still water is prime hatching grounds for mosquito larvae.

It’s those still bodies of water — stagnant ponds, marshes, ditches and other types of depressions in the ground where water accumulates and sits — that Duka targets with its larvae treatment.

The treatment is VectoBac 200G, a heat-killed bacterium that specifically targets mosquitoes and biting flies.

“It does not reproduce in the environment and has no effect on non-target insects, fish, birds or mammals, including humans, livestock and pets,” the City of Whitehorse said in a statement about the larvicide program.

Duka conducts both aerial and ground treatments at still water sites throughout the season with two full-time employees located in Whitehorse, and a pilot who assists with the aerial portion of the program as required (typically a total of about three to four weeks over the course of the season).

Prior to the COVID-era that began in 2020, Fediuk or another Duka employee from B.C. would typically also make a visit to the territory to work on the project. With the global pandemic restricting travel in and out of the territory, Duka has instead hired previous employees to assist with the work that would normally be done during his or another employee visit.

Also involved — and an important part, Fediuk stressed — of the treatment program in the communities are volunteers who stake out the ditches, ponds and other areas with still water for targeted treatment, take samples and will work on efforts to catch adult mosquitoes. Some are public works employees while others are community members simply interested in keeping the mosquito population down in their home community.

“That’s been a key part of the program,” Fediuk said, emphasizing the team approach to dealing with the dreaded bug.

With a lot of snow still to melt and an unknown amount of precipitation to come through the summer, Fediuk said work would be done throughout the season to continually monitor communities for larvae and mosquito populations.

Fediuk noted there are contingency budgets in place to ensure treatments can be done as needed.

As he pointed out, so much “comes down to Mother Nature.”

Both Fediuk and Whitehorse officials said residents can also take action.

Sticking to trails on ATVs and snowmobiles can limit the number of ruts and depressions in the ground where still water can accumulate, Fediuk pointed out.

Dumping water that might accumulate in buckets, tires and the like; spreading out snow where possible; and filling in depressions in the ground once the snow melts are a few of the suggestions aimed at keeping mosquito populations down.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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