Here’s the latest buzz … Take mosquitoes more seriously

Editorial & Opinion, Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I hate bugs that bite. Creepy-crawly spiders used to send me into a panic, but I have refocused my tirade and hostilities on mosquitoes, black flies, deer flies, and horse flies. For an outdoorsy Canadian girl, I admit that I am overly phobic of those parasitic beasts that want to feed off me. It’s not bad enough that they are taking my blood and marring my skin with a welt and/or a bloodstain, but they think that giving me the gift of itchy anesthetic (and potentially a disease) should be a fair trade. Somehow, for me the bite was bad enough, and the bonus of remembering our initial meeting for days with itching and discomfort is infuriating.

With black fly season over, I have one burning question: are the mosquitoes worse this year? There seem to be more of them, and they are a lot bigger. I have completed a very scientific study – I squint and hold up my finger and thumb and judge the size of the critter and compare it to the shiver they sent down my spine last year. The shiver of disgust is bigger this year – and that means so are the bugs.

I know we live in Canada, but that doesn’t mean that mosquitoes are simply a fact of life. In the wilderness, our pesky blood-sucking friends must be tolerated so that we can camp, fish, and enjoy the call of the loon with a beer in hand. But it is different in the city – we can actively reduce the number of mosquitoes that are buzzing incessantly around our heads at night interrupting our sleep. Our barbecued burgers don’t need the extra protein of a bug squashed on top.

We’ve all heard of West Nile virus, and have seen the commercials about ridding our property of standing water that acts as a breeding ground for mosquito and black fly larvae. We’re told to empty out standing water in flower pots, bird baths and old tires.

Well, I’ll go one further than Health Canada – how about you dispose of those old tires and any other junk on your property because they are eyesores, and then empty any other standing water?

Maybe you have landscaped recently and have a lovely ornamental pool? If so, make sure that you add a fountain to circulate the water, or, find out what the scientists up at the Great Lakes Forestry Centre did and go buy some Bti at your local hardware store.

Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies israelensis, or Bti, is safe germ warfare against black flies and mosquitoes! But I should qualify that, because when I say safe, it is safe to animals and humans, but will destroy the walls of the stomachs of mosquitoes and black flies. They stop eating and they die. Simple.

Not so simple if the breeding grounds are on your neighbour’s property – including a number of pools that have not been opened this year. If you are on good terms, tell them about dumping the standing water or adding Bti to it, or open the pool so that you can all swim. If your neighbour is still upset about not being invited to your last barbecue, call your local health unit.

The Environmental Health Unit of Algoma Public Health does not have the ability to write orders to comply, but they will send a comprehensive letter to remind your neighbour about eliminating breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

I hate mosquitoes, they bite, they carry disease, and it is time to take them more seriously.

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