Buzz Off: UAF Entomologist Plans Citizen Science Mosquito-monitoring Program

Along with muggy warmth and thunderstorms, summer time has introduced with it swarms of Alaska’s unofficial state fowl: the mosquito.

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In the weeks because the state authorities lifted all mandates and lots of shops reopened for enterprise, native residents have ransacked them of the majority of their mosquito-repellant objects. According to Daniel Shaw, supervisor of the Fairbanks REI, the shop is totally out of mosquito traps and has offered “the next quantity of bug sprays” than it usually would.

“Obviously we’re in unparalleled occasions now, so it’s troublesome to gauge absolutely with the shop having been shut down for 2 months,” Shaw stated. “But I’ll say, from our perspective domestically right here, we’ve solely been again open since June 1, and we’re already utterly out of Thermacell, which is our go-to mosquito repellent for an space.”

Shaw stated that the gross sales are “positively indicative of a better want for it this yr.” Other shops famous an identical improve of their gross sales of repellents and traps. Alaska Industrial Hardware’s supervisor stated the shop has offered a excessive quantity of sprays, coils, candles, swatters and numerous different objects.

But the query of precisely how a lot worse of a mosquito season the Interior is having is a troublesome one to reply, in keeping with Derek Sikes, a professor of entomology on the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

“I imply, I’ve been out – and it’s terrible,” Sikes stated.

While anecdotal accounts all point out that it is a notably dangerous yr for mosquitoes, Sikes stated there’s no company or entity monitoring them. As such, there’s no knowledge to gauge the typical variety of mosquitoes.

According to Sikes, the shortage of information results in different scientific queries. He stated it’s obvious that mosquito populations range wildly yr to yr however that there’s no method to determine why.

“We do know that there’s a variety of variation of their populations, however we don’t have a great understanding of what drives these adjustments,” he stated. “Some of the apparent concerns are moisture, precipitation, the quantity of rainfall. Mosquitoes are an aquatic insect, so: the quantity of rainfall the yr earlier than, snow depth, temperature. There are a variety of variables that would drive mosquito populations up and down and nobody’s actually accomplished that work.”

That’s why Sikes and his colleagues are planning to instigate a citizen science mosquito-monitoring program in the summertime of 2021. Sikes stated their present plan is to determine a community of residents who use propane-based mosquito traps. The traps use carbon dioxide to draw solely mosquitoes, and residents can be requested handy their “mosquito harvest” over to the college on the finish of the season.

Sikes stated the plan is to conduct the monitoring over various years so as to construct a knowledge set that may very well be studied to reply a few of these ecological questions. He stated that planning will happen this winter.

“So, beginning subsequent summer time, we’ll be capable of hit the bottom operating,” he stated. “Right now, we don’t know. There’s no knowledge.”

In the meantime, Sikes was eager to plug propane-based mosquito traps as one of the simplest ways to evade the insect. He stated issues like sprays and a few electrical traps are indiscriminate of their kills.

“Ecologically, you’d be killing much more than mosquitoes; you’re killing off perhaps lots of of various species in your property,” he stated. “And pollinators, all kinds of insect life is misplaced. Including predators – you can be killing predators which are maintaining the pests underneath management. Not to say all of the beekeepers on the market who aren’t joyful concerning the spraying.”

Sikes additionally famous, for these new to the Interior, that an electrical bug zapper is a nasty thought. Not solely does Fairbanks see little or no darkness over the summer time, in addition they don’t goal mosquitoes particularly.

“Most of the issues that get killed by bug zappers are moths and different bugs that don’t hurt anyone,” he stated.

Anyone desirous about changing into concerned within the deliberate citizen science mosquito monitoring challenge can contact Derek Sikes by e-mail at dssikes@alaska.edu.

Contact employees author Alistair Gardiner at 459-7575. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors.

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