Mosquitoes will make a name for themselves at the campsite, wreak havoc on barbecues and interrupt sleep this summer, but now Te Papa wants kiwis to collect them and send them for their national mosquito count.
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According to Dr. Julia Kasper, mosquitoes are an important part of the food chain. Source: 1 NEWS
The aim of the Citizen Science project is to determine what is believed – that the country’s 13 endemic species are declining and the number of the three introduced species are increasing due to land use changes.
“We believe they could outperform our native mosquitoes, and that’s what we want to find out …” said Te Papa entomologist Dr. Julia Kasper.
She said the Department of Health and New Zealand BioSecure had a national mosquito surveillance program in seaports and airports, but native mosquitoes were more likely to be found in natural habitats like the bush.
“Since it is not known that the native mosquitoes transmit diseases, I think they are somewhat neglected,” said Kasper.
“Some of these species have been so little researched that we don’t really know what they feed on.”
Hopefully the census will provide some answers.
“How far the native mosquitoes are still spreading in New Zealand, we find new records from places that we may not have known about before.”
Copies from Cape Reinga to Rakiura / Stewart Island are required.
“Now I have to get the people who are out in the bush and get the rare ones,” she said.
Individuals submitting a mosquito are asked to complete the census form on Te Papa’s website.
It is best for senders to kill the mosquito with a freezer to keep their scales for identification and to send the sample to Te Papa in a sturdy container, Kasper said.
“Some people just put the mosquito in an envelope and then I only got a couple of legs when I unpacked them.”
The first collection last summer was cut when the country was under lockdown due to Covid-19 and postage was limited to essential items.
“Somebody from a farm in Northland sent in so many samples and we found out that she has four different species on her farm… kids said goodbye to their mozzie and they gave them names, but they obviously didn’t mind that they were killed … Others said, “This is my revenge, damn Mozzie, you will never bite me again,” Kasper said of the various submissions.
Hopefully hundreds of copies will be sent in this season and the project is expected to run for several years.
Wellington student Siobhan Barnard has attended and is encouraging others to contribute to the country’s scientific knowledge of mosquitoes.
“I find it really fascinating, honestly, it’s really cool to learn about species that you don’t really think about,” said Barnard.
“There’s a stigma and fear behind them, or maybe some kind of disgust and I think if you take a closer look you’ll find that interest.”
Te Papa will reply to submitters by the name of the species they submitted and will attempt to answer any public questions.