The City of Edmonton is terminating its helicopter program to combat mosquitoes, which could lead to a 40 per cent population increase in outlying areas of the city.
Mike Jenkins, the city’s pest control coordinator, said the elimination of the aerial spray program was passed by council during fall budget discussions as a way to save about $1 million a year. Although it may lead to an increase of mosquitoes by about 40 per cent in a typical season, Jenkins said this increase will be in dense forest areas on the outskirts of the city.
To offset the elimination of the aerial program, Jenkins said the city is adding more resources and traps to control ground and ditch habitats. Helicopters were used to spray about 80 per cent of the habitat in the city with a larvicide product that would prevent mosquito populations from hatching.
“We’re still treating most of the habitat that is close into the city with higher proximity to residential areas,” Jenkins told reporters Thursday morning. “So although we do expect to see an increase in mosquito numbers because of the loss of the aerial program, we do think that we will still be able to meet our goals in reducing the mosquito population and still have an effective mosquito control program going forward.”
Despite changes to the control program, Jenkins said the city is anticipating mosquito levels to be lower this year than the average due to mostly dry conditions. Crews have been out on city parkland since April 12 to control the mosquito population and Jenkins said the spring season isn’t expected to be bad. After that, it all depends on the amount of precipitation.
“We anticipate the mosquito numbers will be lower this year as we are coming out of a very dry winter. Our spring so far has been very dry and at times cool. However, conditions can change very quickly as we move through the season. It takes just one decent amount of precipitation to deliver enough moisture for dormant mosquito eggs to hatch,” Jenkins said. “Many of our spring species are those really aggressive daytime biters. Right now there’s very little moisture on the ground and very little habitat for those mosquitoes, so we’re not expecting many of those.”
Residents can also do their part to reduce mosquitoes near their homes by eliminating areas with low-lying amounts of water that mosquitoes can breed in such as bird baths, old tires or barrels. One of the best tools is to have an oscillating fan going in the backyard, Jenkins said. Mosquitoes don’t like landing windy conditions, especially changing windy conditions so a fan could prompt them to move on.
Standing bodies of water in residential areas should be reported to 311 to eliminate potential development sites for mosquito larvae. There are more than 30 types of mosquitoes in Edmonton.