You’re not imagining things, the mosquitoes are bad this year.
But not the worst they’ve ever been, says Dirk Lewis, the mosquito man at the Fraser Valley Regional District and biologist at Morrow BioScience.
Morrow’s been chasing skeeters in the Fraser Valley since 1989.
“This has been an extraordinary year,” he says, sounding a little worn-out during an interview Tuesday at the regional district. “We’ve been going non-stop since late May.”
“The mass of the mosquitoes is coming from the islands,” he says.
But there is also more standing water in farmers’ fields this year, the result of “seepage,” he says, as ground water is pushed up and out by the high river level and with additional bouts of heavy rain.
Perfect breeding conditions for mosquitoes.
Morrow and a team of four assistants have been wading and paddling into these swampy areas using a bacterial product that kills mosquitoes in the larval stage but is otherwise harmless.
A helicopter is used to treat larger areas, but aerial “fogging” is no longer done.
Also, the pesticide being used is “not residual” so it must be re-applied if there is a surge in the water level and breeding areas re-created. There are residual pesticides on the market, but none registered for safe use in Canada.
All of which means valley residents have been inundated by hungry mosquitoes and the regional district “bombarded” with their complaints.
“How can you plan for a river that has been high for the past six weeks,” said George Murray, the FVRD’s exasperated finance director.
“We’re already spending $100,000 more than budgeted,” he said, and estimated the total will hit $260,000 this year.
That’s not chicken feed.
Lewis said there are various anti-mosquito products on the market, but the best defense is a physical barrier – long sleeves, light-colored clothing.
He said the worst year for mosquitoes in his experience was 1999, but their numbers must have been unimaginable before the shallow Sumas Lake was drained and no longer a huge breeding ground.