Life in Mosquito Country

Last summer, Swarms of bloodthirsty mosquitoes may not be a summer reality in all parts of the East Kootenay-Columbia, but where the mosquitoes prevail, outdoor life can be an ongoing challenge. Up here in the Golden area, mosquitoes are an unpleasant but unavoidable reality of July and August. The Regional district and the town of Golden jointly fund a local mosquito control program, active for the past 20 plus years, that uses a larvicide, BTI, a program that is arguably and literally an insignificant drop in a very big bucket. That big bucket, the Columbia Wetlands, now quoted in real estate ads as the “internationally renown”, etc, etc, is the major source of mosquitoes, and most of us, if we really think about it, wouldn’t have it any other way, accepting the value of a naturally function ecosystem. This season expect mosquitoes to be worse than usual because of the high water and a very wet June, all contributing to their success and our aggravation. Mosquitoes are annoying for most and, more than annoying for some people, and the news from the bird world is not comforting. A report on Canada’s birds released in May raised alarming statistics. Our most voracious mosquito eating avian friends, swifts, nighthawks, whip-poor-wills and swallows, are in serious decline, with populations down more than 75 per cent since 1970. There’s plenty of speculation about the cause for the decline, from climate change to pet cats, but the reality is we can expect to have to do more to survive mosquito season. Here’s a start on what you can do in your own back yard and just skip ahead if you already know all this. Encourage air circulation. Keep the grass clipped and the shrubs trimmed. Splurge on a portable screened gazebo, something that will allow you to actually enjoy a warm summer evening outside. Eliminate mosquito breeding habit, regularly drain those pools, buckets, and long standing puddles. And don’t expose more flesh than necessary. Wear lightweight, light coloured clothing, socks, pants and shirts with long sleeves. And I will blame the victim by stating that dressing for the beach while in the bush is just asking for it! Forgo any kind of scent, including deodorant, hair products, etc. Walk, don’t sit; a moving target is harder to bite, of course. The old reliable switch pulled from a convenient wild willow or bush maple (not the prize peony next door) never fails to improve a walk. Maintain insectivore bird habitat whenever possible. Erect swallow boxes because some are cavity nesters and cavities in dead trees are in short supply. Don’t freak out if you have a nightly invasion of bats; they eat lots of mosquitoes. Bottom line, we live in mosquito country and it’s a reality that is most realistically approached through our adaptation. There is no magic bullet beyond moving to an urban area, since most of Canada experiences some nuisance insects. So put up those screens, button those cuffs, get rid of the perfume and soon enough, too soon for me, it will be September.