If you’re planning to spend your summer hiking through Ontario’s beautiful forests, camping or relaxing outside at the cottage — it may be time to think again.
Mosquito levels are at their highest in years and it’s only June.
Toronto and Ontario saw an increase in rainfall this Spring, leading to a large number of stagnant water sites throughout the province, said Jessica Fang, a biologist with the Toronto and Region Conservation Association.
“The mosquitoes got a head start in the season,” she said. “We’re predicting a higher than normal count of mosquitoes this summer.”
Avid hiker Doug O’Neill, 57, is a freelance writer who has already experienced the onslaught of mosquitoes this season.
He is a member of the Toronto chapter of the Bruce Trail club and has enjoyed trekking up new terrain for the last 25 years — but this year, the mosquitoes are especially bad.
“Mosquitoes were out in full force,” O’Neill said. “They were nasty.”
The bugs are so bad that some of his fellow hikers have decided to skip the hikes this summer.
“I do have friends who say, ‘See you in September,’” O’Neill said.
Mosquitoes were out in full force
Mosquitoes thrive on high temperatures and precipitation. According to Peter Kimbell, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, Toronto saw 56 per cent more rain in the last 90 days than the normal annual average. Toronto had 334 mm of rain in April, May and June, while the spring average is only 214 mm.
Algonquin Park experienced the most rainfall. The provincial park located between Georgian Bay and the Ottawa River had 465 mm in April, May and June.
April’s high levels of rainfall led to continued flooding across the Greater Toronto Area‘s many beaches, creating a “breeding ground” for mosquitoes and West Nile Virus.
Fang’s job is to look for mosquitoes possibly infected with the virus. She works for the conservation group in charge of monitoring 47 sites in the Peel, York and Durham regions as well as across the GTA.
West Nile Virus is transmitted by infected female mosquitoes also known as vector mosquitoes. Male mosquitoes are completely harmless and don’t need to feed on people for survival.
“West Nile virus is primary an avian flu,” Fang said. “People are dead-end hosts and most people that have contracted WNV will show no or very mild symptoms.”
Higher than normal temperatures in June led to two recorded hotspots. Hotspots occur when there are 30 or more vector mosquitoes per site.
“I have never seen hotspots in the first sample event, which is the first few weeks of June,” Fang said.
Mosquitoes grow in artificial containers like garbage lids, bins and anything that contains water in backyards. Fang advises that any containers at risk of having water build-up should be emptied weekly.
“Mosquitoes are a regular part of summer like sandals and shorts,” she said. “I know they’ve forecast warmer than normal temperatures but we won’t know how much it’s increased until the end of the summer when we’ve had all our data.”
Five ways to protect yourself from mosquitoes
1. Wear light-coloured clothing
2. Wear long-sleeved clothing
3. Use repellent with 25 per cent deet
4. Avoid wooded areas at dusk and dawn
5. Empty containers that collect water in your yard weekly