As much as the sun, sand, and surf are part of summer in southeastern North Carolina.
But the buzz these people generate is something no one really appreciates, and new research suggests that warming in North Carolina, driven by climate change, is creating better living conditions for the bloodsucking inhabitants of the region. is shown.
A recent analysis by Climate Central found that Wilmington will have 11 more “mosquito days” in 2022 than in 1979, for a total of 221 days. The non-profit Climate Communications Group defines “Mosquito Day” as an average relative humidity of 42% or higher, with daily minimum and maximum temperatures between 50 and 95 degrees Celsius. Port city numbers are headed in the wrong direction, but better than those researchers found for Raleigh-Durham (+27 days), Greenville (+22 days) and Asheville (+22 days). .
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Overall, the study found that 173 of the 242 U.S. locations analyzed, or 71%, had an average of 16 more mosquito days per year. At 55 sites, he increased the number of mosquito days per year by more than 21 days. Santa Maria, Calif. led the way with 43 days, followed closely by San Francisco with 42 days. Not surprisingly, the Southeast and South have mosquito days more than half the year, the most in the nation.
Rising temperatures in spring and fall pump more heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, lengthening the season for mosquitoes to breed, bite and spread viruses.
“It also allows mosquitoes to migrate to new ranges, often following humans as they disperse to new locations,” says the disease at the Cary Ecosystem Institute in central Hudson Valley, New York. ecologist Dr. Shannon Rado said. “And the warmer it gets, the better chance it has to settle.”
For example, New Hanover County is home to more than 40 species of mosquitoes, some of which are invasive and have adapted to the local climate. Increases in species, their range and potential numbers are expected to continue as the climate warms and humidity increases.
Rado said that from a human health standpoint, public health officials are more concerned about mosquito-borne viruses than the biting and general annoyance they cause. These health risks include Zika virus, Dengue fever, Chikungunya virus, Eastern equine encephalitis, West Nile virus, and others.
“There is good reason to believe that this type of virus will become a higher risk in the years and decades to come, especially in urban areas,” Rado said.
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New Hanover County reported two West Nile cases in 2022, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The county also reported imported cases of dengue fever, which occurs primarily in tropical and subtropical climates. Last year, Brunswick County also reported one imported case of chikungunya, another virus found mainly in the tropics.
Dry and not chewy (in a way)
The Cape Fear region is getting more mosquito-friendly days, but it’s not all bad news, at least in the short term.
Jeff Suggs, New Hanover County Mosquito Control Director, said drought for the past two years and dry weather so far in 2023, though not around Memorial Day, have helped curb mosquito populations. Said it was helpful.
He said the number of trapped insects that dot the county is low, which is not uncommon in early summer, but is still below typical levels.
“So we don’t want to go out and spray mosquitoes. It’s going to be more of a nuisance to squirrels and deer than humans these days,” Saggs said, adding that bug numbers typically increase as summer progresses. and pointed out that a peak was reached. In southeastern North Carolina, skier season begins in late summer and early fall.
Rado and Saggs said mosquitoes typically don’t travel more than a few hundred meters from homes when hunting, so removing pools and containers of water such as gutters from your yard reduces mosquito exposure. He said it can be limited. . Avoiding activities at dusk and dawn and wearing long clothing also help limit potential exposure.
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Rain usually causes an imminent mosquito outbreak, but heavy rains associated with tropical weather systems can wash away stagnant water sources. Long periods of dry weather allow dry soil and vegetation to absorb rainwater quickly, which can also control insect populations.
But Saggs says mosquitoes only need a tablespoon or a bottle cap of water to reproduce, so actively limiting stagnant water sources is the best way to keep local populations in check. said to be one of the ways.
“Think small like a mosquito,” he said.
Gareth McGrath can be reached at GMcGrath@Gannett.com or @GarethMcGrathSN on Twitter. This story was produced with funding from the 1Earth Fund and the Prentice Foundation. The USA TODAY network maintains full editorial control of the production.