- Our Town
Attack of the annoying mosquitoes
My post-work routine generally consists of three possibilities — either cover a community event, go for a bike ride or laze about in the yard reading.
On those days I feel like relaxing I like to turn my speakers so they’re facing out the window, put on some music, pull out the lounger, grab a book and a beer and sit back and relax.
For about 10 minutes I’ll sit there, basking in the sun or cooling in the shade.
After 11 minutes, I’m running inside, my nemeses having tracked me down and ruined my peace.
Of course, I’m talking about mosquitoes and I can’t think of a summer worse than this one since I moved to Revelstoke, with as many evenings made intolerable itch fests. Deet, which I normally avoid, has been my good friend.
I thought maybe it was just me but a general consensus developed amongst my circle of friends that the mosquitoes are indeed worse this summer. A few even suggested I investigate the problem.
I put it off until last week, when Allan McInnes, a long-time local who I know spent most of his life working in the bush, walked in the office with a letter to the editor blaming BC Hydro for this year’s mosquito outreak.
“Working in the garden is torture beyond belief,” he wrote. “They attack from all sides and when you bend over to pick weeds of vegetables, they attack from the rear.
“This summer is ruined.”
McInnes blamed BC Hydro for the problem, saying it was the way they operated the reservoir that was the problem. To see if that was the case, I spoke to Cheryl Pippen of BWP Consulting, the company who administers Revelstoke’s mosquito control program for the Columbia Shuswap Regional District. She said this year they have received numerous complaints about mosquitoes from Revelstoke, and she doesn’t know why.
“We’re kind of baffled,” she told me. “The worst mosquitos that we’re finding are actually far away from our typical sites. And the fact we’re not finding larvae in our typical sites — they’re not coming from areas that we know about.”
BWP conducts mosquito control at 13 sites around Revelstoke, including the airport wetlands, the Downie marsh, Williamson Lake, the Big Eddy Greenbelt and a few other locations. They treat areas where mosquito larvae develop to prevent them from hatching and becoming nuisances. The program doesn’t completely eliminate mosquitoes, but it does prevent them from becoming a nightmare.
BWP also has a mosquito trap near the airport that they use to track numbers.
“The numbers in those traps are not any greater than normal,” said Pippen. “What we’re finding for the sites that do we treat is that we haven’t put out the maximum we have in other years. We’ve had slightly lower numbers of mosquitos because the river didn’t rise as late in the year as it normally does.”
Mosquitoes develop in standing water such as ponds, flood plains, ditches, eaves troughs and bird baths. As the Arrow Reservoir rises, new mosquito habitat is created. BWP conducts mosquito control when the insects are in the larval stage, so they don’t have a chance to hatch.
This year should have been a good year for mosquito control, said Pippen. It’s been drier and hotter than normal, conditions that are non-conducive for mosquitoes. As well, the reservoir peaked on July 7 — earlier than usual. BWP conducted its control and subsequent site surveys showed mosquitoes weren’t developing at their control sites.
Some years the water comes up, dips again, then rises to a new high, meaning more mosquito control has to be conducted. This year that was not the case. BC Hydro’s reservoir operations are not the culprit,” said Pippen.
If mosquitoes aren’t coming from the expected spots, where are they from? “They’re not coming from the river, they’re coming from somewhere else,” she said.
Pippen’s theory is that the big rainstorm on July 23 created big pools of water throughout the area that resulted in lots of mosquitoes hatching in unexpected places. She also said they could come from places like rain barrels.
“You can get thousands and thousands of mosquitos in really small containers,” she said.
And it’s not just a Revelstoke problem — the isssue extends to Kamloops and the Okanagan.
“In Kamloops I live in a really dry area and there was a month this year where right around 7 o’clock we were going back in our house,” said Pippen. “I couldn’t tell you where they came from and I know every stretch of my community.
“It’s got to be containers and ditches and things that are just filling up that typically don’t.”
Pippen asked me to let people know they are investigating the problem, but that they also need the public’s help. If you know of potential mosquito habitat, let her know by calling 1-866-679-8473.
“We’re totally open to expanding our program if we can find something new and something different,” she said. “At this point we just cannot find it.
“It really should have been a good year for mosquitos. We’re baffled.”
The positive I take from all of this — at least it’s not just me.