Yukoners: Bug expert wants you to mail him that mosquito you just swatted

·3 min read
UBC entomologist Dan Peach is asking Yukoners to send him dead mosquitoes in the mail so he can track how different species are moving north as a result of climate change. (Canadian Press - image credit)
UBC entomologist Dan Peach is asking Yukoners to send him dead mosquitoes in the mail so he can track how different species are moving north as a result of climate change. (Canadian Press - image credit)

Dan Peach wants you to send him that mosquito you just swatted.

"Put it in the mail and send it to us," he said.

He's not kidding.

It's part of a citizen science project in which Peach, an entomologist at the University of British Columbia, is trying to find out which species remain in B.C. and the Yukon, and which ones are making their way there as a result of climate change.

"It's important for a couple of reasons," he said.

As the climate warms up, species coming north could be bringing pathogens — bacteria, viruses or other microorganisms that can cause disease — with them.

"West Nile in southern B.C., for instance, might spread a bit further north as things warm up," he said.

Another one is Western equine encephalitis, a virus that can cause a sudden onset of fever, headache, stiff neck, vomiting and lethargy.

Peach said that the virus hasn't been an issue for decades in B.C. and the Yukon, but that could change.

"Who knows what else might show up in the future as, you know, more and more invasive species show up, or as pathogens from one area arrive to a new area," he said.

At least 30 different species in Yukon

Peach, who has come to the Yukon every summer for the last five or six years, said his group confirmed more than 30 different species of mosquito in the territory, and estimates there are at least half a dozen to a dozen more.

"We tend to find species that weren't previously known from the area, and that's not entirely uncommon," he explained.

He said some feed on blood and others don't.

Many of the species in the Yukon feed on birds and people. Others will feed on plants such as algae or flowers. There are even one or two species in the Yukon that feed on frogs and reptiles.

"So they all have these different ... little niches that they exploit," he said.

How to avoid bites

Peach offered suggestions on how to avoid getting bit by a mosquito.

He said insect repellent with DEET is the gold standard.

"But there are some pretty good natural alternatives out there as well," he added.

He also said wearing light clothing makes a difference as mosquitoes are attracted to dark colours.

People are also more likely to be bitten by mosquitoes if they've been drinking alcohol, Peach said.

Where to send the mosquitoes

Peach said Yukoners can send him dead mosquitoes at the Ben Matthews lab at:

UBC Zoology
4200-6270 University Boulevard
Vancouver, B.C.
V6T 1Z4

He's hoping that when people send him the mosquitoes, they'll include their address or the name of the crossstreets of where they killed the mosquitoes as well as the date.

You can add your email too if you're interested in hearing back from the lab to know what species the mosquito was.

And don't worry if the mosquitoes are squished, said Peach.

"Our techniques that we'll be using to identify involve squishing it up and grinding it up anyways."

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