How Weather and Climate Change Impact Mosquito Activity
The term mosquito comes from the Portuguese term ‘little fly.’ When you see a million of these little guys flying around, you realize it’s a very apt term, until you get bit. Today mosquitoes exist on every continent outside of Antarctica, where conditions are too cold for their survival. They only need temperatures above 58 degrees to thrive, and they will, if allowed to have free reign of any area with a stagnant pool of water.
Mosquitoes are almost always the first organism that is drawn to a new body of water and they are also one of the first organisms to leave it in search of a new living place. For this reason, they have been every hardy and easily thrive in many different climates. This process also helps them to evade predators quite well. Interestingly enough, although mosquitoes do require water in order to reproduce, once they are airborne, they can survive in many different conditions. In addition, warmer temperatures allow them to be more active, but warm and wet does not mean more mosquitoes, and colder and dry does not mean less.
Droughts can help mosquitoes breed because of the stagnant water that sits on the ground although less rain may mean less bodies of water for mosquitoes to breed in. Although they are not likely to come out and bite during long rains, they will breed like wildfire in the newly created ponds of water. The truth is that these little flies will take advantage of every type of weather condition making the impact of weather on mosquitoes very minimal.
Climate and Mosquitoes
The simple truth of the matter is that mosquitoes are able to adapt to change quickly, allowing them to live in many climates against the intellectual odds. They are a species that proves Darwin’s theory of evolution, because they genetically are able to adapt quickly to change allowing future generations to survive in new climates. For this reason alone, it is very hard to combat mosquitoes in any area, because they can change their lifecycle to match new conditions.
For example, the northeastern U.S. states have a type of mosquito known as the pitcher-plant mosquito. These types of mosquitoes traditionally lay eggs when daylight hours start reaching a designated time. Over the past four decades, the genetic traits of this family of mosquitoes has slowly altered allowing them to hatch earlier and earlier in the year as temperatures starting warming in these states.
Today the northeast U.S. has warmed by a bit over one degree Fahrenheit and the frost season ends earlier. Due to the genetic mutation the pitcher-plant mosquitoes can now hatch much earlier in the year, and it only took them a few decades to do so!
In terms of the evolutionary cycle, this adaptation is quicker than almost every other animal species. As the earth continues to warm because of climate change, it is predicted that mosquitoes will continue to evolve coming out earlier and earlier in the year. So you might want to consider buying bug spray in March, because in some areas, mosquitoes will now be around long enough to declare state residency.
Impact of Weather on Mosquito-Borne Disease
It has been found that higher temperatures often are linked to the creation of protozoan that leads to malaria. When mosquitoes are present in temperatures above 59 and 64 degrees Fahrenheit, they are able to mature the malaria strains of Plasmodium Vivax and Plasmodium Falciparum. In addition, it only takes a temperature above 58 degrees for St. Louis Encephalistiis and West Nile Virus to develop in the body of a mosquito. For every additional 12 degrees that it increases in temperature, the development rate of these diseases than doubles.