Mosquitoes in urban areas
Now that summer is finally on the horizon, so too is mosquito season. More than an annoyance, mosquitoes can spread serious illnesses, like West Nile virus and Dengue. And while we may associate mosquito bites with activities like hiking and camping, the nuisance insects are also very active in urban areas.
Cities harbor mosquitoes for a number of reasons. Areas plagued by garbage, piles of tires, or other yard waste trap water, providing attractive mosquito breeding grounds that lack predators. Sewers and catchment basins are also hotspots. Even intentional water features, like fountains or planters, can contribute to the problem.
Shannon LaDeau is a Disease Ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. As part of the Baltimore Ecosystem Study, she is identifying conditions that regulate urban mosquitoes, with the goal of minimizing West Nile virus risk to city residents.
"Mosquitoes are an increasing problem in Mid-Atlantic cities like Baltimore. They've seen a rise in the invasive Tiger mosquito, which is a relentless species that bites all day and night. In collaboration with a network of ecologists and some public health experts, I am working to understand how these urban environments regulate mosquito numbers. Our goal is to eliminate the breeding hotspots and reduce both the nuisance biting that keeps residents from outdoor activities and the risk of mosquito-borne disease."
Community involvement is a center piece of LaDeau's work, with citizens taking part in mosquito monitoring and control efforts. This research will eventually result in fewer mosquito-related illnesses in Baltimore, and a model that can be applied to other urban areas.
Produced in collaboration with WAMC Northeast Public Radio, this podcast originally aired on June 2, 2014. To access a full archive of Earth Wise podcasts, visit: www.earthwiseradio.org.
Photo: Sean McCann