Very simply, mosquitos thrive in warm and wet environments. Climate change is increasing the global temperature, and the number of extreme weather events, thereby increasing the range where these blood-sucking creatures can live. Delayed frosts also extend the life-span of mosquitos, and areas with high humidity and still water encourage egg development and survival of this species.
Climate change is creating ideal conditions for mosquitos to survive. This already resilient species prefers to live in hot, wet climates all across the world. According to the American Mosquito Control Association, there are more than 2,500 different species of mosquitoes, and they have survived for over 100 million years (http://www.mosquito.org/mosquito-information/faq.aspx), and are highly adaptable. As our climate warms, the range for mosquitos will increase. Scientists at Rutgers University explained that “Mosquitoes…are cold blooded creatures. As a result, they are incapable of regulating body heat and their temperature is essentially the same as their surroundings. Mosquitoes function best at 80o F, become lethargic at 60o F and cannot function below 50o F”, (http://www-rci.rutgers.edu/~insects/mosfaq.htm#q6). It should be clear, that as global temperatures rise the range of favorable locations for mosquitos will also expand.
So, should we be concerned if there the mosquito population is on the rise?
Yes and here’s why...
Mosquitos are undoubtedly bothersome creatures. They cause us (people and animals alike) discomfort and their bite makes us itch. But the mosquito is a harmful insect, because it is a major carrier of diseases (known as mosquito-borne diseases), including:
- West Nile Virus
- Dengue Fever
- Yellow Fever
- Encephalitis [St. Louis encephalitis (SLE), Western Equine encephalitis (WEE), LaCrosse encephalitis (LAC), Japanese encephalitis (JE) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE)]
(American Mosquito Control Association)
The spread of these diseases will have a critical impact on people across the globe. The Natural Resources Defense Council explained,
Warmer temperatures boost the speed of development of adult mosquitoes, increasing their numbers. Female mosquitoes bite more frequently in hotter temperatures, and warmer winters enable mosquitoes to survive in areas that were formerly too cold. Higher temperatures also shorten the time it takes for the virus inside the mosquito to develop and become infective. This means that the mosquitoes become dangerous to humans more rapidly (http://www.nrdc.org/health/dengue/files/dengue.pdf).
Warming temperatures have a direct correlation to an increase in mosquitos. And an unfortunate effect on mosquitoes ability to transmit diseases. These insects will have a profound effect on societies across the globe, as new diseases are introduced to unprepared parts of the country.
Even if we as a society increase our preventative measures against mosquitoes, using netting over beds, reducing the number of available still-water sources for mosquitoes there is still an area of concern. With global climate change, comes an increase in the number of severe and extreme weather events. Flooding, hurricanes, typhoons—primarily in coastal areas—are all extremely destructive to towns and local infrastructure. When these events happen, many ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes are created. One need only to see the aftermath of a hurricane to understand that these storms are big, real, destructive and also create prime areas for mosquitoes.
Ask the visitor where they see mosquitos? What are the common environmental characteristics that we associate with these insects? Mosquitos are pests and major carriers of diseases. So, what can YOU DO to help control the ever growing mosquito population?
The simplest response is to remove all standing water from your homes and yards. These insects breed in standing water, and keeping in mind their very small size, the amount of water they require to breed is also very small. Make sure garbage cans have lids, and don’t have small pools of water in the bottom. Birdbaths, tires, buckets and tarps are all very likely places for mosquitos to thrive. Removing these will help control your local populations.
The mosquito population is likely to continue to increase because of a warming climate. But, by reducing the number of suitable habitats, we can help reduce the spread of mosquito-borne diseases.