By The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG – Some Manitobans jokingly refer to mosquitoes as their unofficial provincial bird, but Winnipeg has been unusually free of the pesky insects so far this year.
Ken Nawolsky, the city’s superintendent of insect control, said the average daily mosquito count in the 28 monitoring traps scattered throughout the city for most of May and June has been zero.
“This is kind of uncharted territory for Winnipeg and so citizens of Winnipeg are really enjoying the spring and the summer so far,” Nawolsky said.
Nawolsky said previous years have been bad for mosquitoes because the city has sometimes received a month’s worth of precipitation in a single day. That creates large bodies of standing water where mosquitoes can breed.
This year, he said rainfall has been much more spread out.
“We’re just hoping that this pattern continues,” he said.
Regina is also experiencing fewer mosquitoes this year, which the city’s parks director Ray Morgan attributes to the driest May there since 1971.
For Tineke de Jong, who grew up in Winnipeg and just returned to the city after living in Edmonton for nine years, the change has been noticeable.
De Jong works for Downtown Winnipeg Biz and will be taking part in a “living flag” gathering at the city’s famed Portage and Main intersection on Canada Day morning, so the respite from mosquito bites is welcome.
“I have not seen a mosquito nor have I been bitten this year,” she said. “2017 is mosquito-free for this girl.”
Canada Day fireworks in Winnipeg are held at The Forks, where the Red and Assiniboine rivers meet. Marketing director Chelsea Thomson said people in the city are accustomed to arming themselves with repellent or wearing long clothing.
“In my experience, we receive a large crowd regardless of the size of the mosquito crowd,” Thomson said.
Nawolsky said there’s no real drawback to having fewer mosquitoes. Dragonflies eat them, but he said they predominantly feed on larger insects like flies and moths. Bats generally eat larger insects too and eat mosquitoes only when they can’t find another food source, he said.
Winnipeg typically fogs neighbourhoods to control mosquitoes, and this year has switched from malathion to a more environmentally friendly alternative. But Nawolsky said the city hasn’t had to use it so far.
People can help prolong the break from mosquitoes by dumping standing water in their backyards and changing water in bird baths, he added.
But he predicts the mosquito counts will remain low for the next couple of weeks.
“As we get towards the middle of the month, we’ll find out if that forecast will change, but so far, so good.”