Warmer Winters Could Bring Mosquitoes Sooner Than Expected ! Get Ready NY !

Close-up image of a mosquito resting on a man's hand

In recent weeks, Rochester residents have enjoyed unusually warm weather, leading to an earlier appearance of mosquitoes.

According to Kaitlin Stack Whitney, an assistant professor and leader of the Stack/Whitney Collaborative of Entomology, Environment, and Technology at RIT, the dormancy period of mosquitoes, known as diapause, and their subsequent emergence is influenced by factors such as the duration of daylight rather than temperature alone.

The Impact of Climate Change on Mosquitoes

Asian tiger mosquito laying eggs

The study of these insects, particularly in the context of climate change, remains underfunded despite its growing importance as the habitats and range of mosquito species shift, potentially bringing diseases typically confined to warmer regions closer to home.

Climate changes, including milder winters with less snowfall but increased rain, create ideal conditions for mosquito breeding, with species like the invasive Asian tiger mosquito capable of laying eggs in minimal amounts of water.

Warming Winters and Mosquito Activity

The Northeast is experiencing a rapid warming of winters, contributing to a rise in the number of days suitable for mosquito activity in Rochester since 1970.

This warming trend poses a challenge, as it could extend the geographical spread and overwintering capabilities of pest insects, including mosquitoes.

Mosquito-Borne Illnesses in Upstate New York

West Nile virus in humans

New York is home to around 70 mosquito species, with about a third of them known to carry diseases. The majority of disease-carrying mosquitoes are located in the southern parts of the state, with upstate New York primarily at risk from West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis.

Surveillance and Disease Spread

In 2023, Monroe County reported a single case of West Nile virus in humans, despite no positive mosquito detections, partly due to a lack of testing by the state Department of Health. Conversely, no cases were reported in the counties surrounding Monroe, but New York State recorded a total of 32 cases outside of the New York City area.

Eastern equine encephalitis remained absent in Western New York but was present in counties along the eastern shores of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

Common disease vectors in the state include mosquitoes from the Ades, Culex, and Anopheles genera. The Culex pipiens, or Northern house mosquito, is prevalent in New York, thriving in stagnant water and capable of spreading West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis.

The Ecological Role of Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes play positive roles in pollination of orchids

Despite their notoriety, mosquitoes also play positive roles in ecosystems, such as pollination, with certain species contributing to the pollination of orchids in New Jersey and the Adirondacks.

Stack Whitney emphasizes the complexity of categorizing insects as purely beneficial or harmful, advocating for balanced discussions on the ecological roles of mosquitoes and strategies for mitigating disease risks.

All Posts


Related Posts