What La Nina might imply for mosquito numbers this 12 months


How La Niña begins in Australia and temperatures begin to rise before summer, a little pesky insect is expected to thrive.

Experts predict that the coming months will see an increase in mosquito populations, with warm, wet weather creating the perfect breeding conditions.

“We expect that with more rainfall and more water, it will be pretty good for mosquitoes,” said Sydney University mosquito researcher Dr. Cameron Webb, across from nine.com.au.

Wet and humid weather has caused an alarming increase in mosquito populations in Queensland. Wet and humid weather is expected to cause an increase in mosquito populations across Australia. (Wolter Peeters)

“Mosquitoes need water in their life cycle – they spend a lot of time buzzing around and biting people, but they lay eggs on or near containers filled with water,” said Dr. Webb.

“This could be bird baths, rainwater tanks, potted plants in your garden, or it could be ponds or puddles or wetlands in the natural environment.

“Mosquitoes breed in every type of water you can think of. The more it is, the more mosquitos there will be.”

During the drier seasons, mosquitos are more common along the coastal areas, but this year city dwellers are likely to see a lot more in the area, and inland areas are also prepared for a much greater variety of mozzies.

“We will certainly see more mosquitoes in more areas when we have wet weather,” said Dr. Webb.

There are at least 60 different types of mozzies in Sydney alone, and that number could increase if the wet weather persists.

The increase in mosquito populations could also spell an increase in Ross River disease.

Mosquito sucks bloodThe surge is mosquito populations could see a surge in Ross River virus infections this summer. (iStock)

“Australia is pretty lucky, we are mostly free from most of the really serious mosquito-borne diseases … but we have the Ross River virus and it is the most common virus that makes people sick,” said Dr. Webb.

More than half of those infected don’t feel sick, but for those who do, symptoms are joint pain and swelling, muscle aches, fever, fatigue, and rash.

Most patients recover within a few weeks, but some people experience joint pain, stiffness, or fatigue for many months.

“We get at least 5000 cases every year and we believe that this is an underestimation of the number of people actually infected as symptoms can vary and you need to appear in these official statistics to get a blood test,” said Dr. Webb.

“That might just be the tip of the iceberg considering how many people are infected.”

Mosquitoes must bite an infected animal before they become carriers of the disease – mainly kangaroos and wallabies – making the disease significantly more common in regional and remote communities.

Australai is facing a particularly humid summer, with La Nina causing record-breaking rain this year. (James Brickwood)

While we can’t look at mosquitoes as anything but trouble in the summer months, Dr. Webb that a spike in numbers could actually be a good thing.

“They are an important source of food for a number of animals including birds, bats, fish, frogs, and spiders. The fact that mosquitoes are abundant is probably good news for many animals who like to eat them.” he said.

“A lot of people ask me what a mosquito is good for, but maybe they are inspiration that could come from mosquitos that we just haven’t gotten right or learned enough about.”

Dr. Webb said during the bushfire season last summer that he discovered that mosquito eggs could survive the deadly inferno – a discovery that could lead to important developments in engineering and design.

“The whole bushland was on fire, but once the rain came and filled the wetland, the mosquitoes hatched so clearly that there is evidence that they survived, which only shows how resilient they are to extreme weather conditions.

“Maybe the way your eggs withstand extreme heat is something we can learn from.”

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