Friday, June 24, 2011

Grass, weeds and skeeters summer's triple play

Calgary is home to over a million people, about 122,325 dogs, 91,551 cats and 25 species of mosquitoes. Inside our 848 sq KM city we have over 8,000 hectares of maintained open spaces, 3600+ parks and 700+ kilometres of pathways. 

This year, because of an unusually late spring and an abundance of wet weather City parks crews are now nearly four weeks behind where they wanted to be in their Parks maintenance. This means city parks have noticeably longer grass than anyone prefers and, to this dismay of Parks management, it's starting to look like the city is farming dandelions. Of course, this has been tough on the dedicated parks maintenance personnel and community members alike.         

Although The City works to ensure proper maintenance of city parks and other open spaces, when weather conditions create wet grass, City crews are unable to mow or spray herbicide.  

Todd Reichardt, Manager of Parks Operations - South Division explains, “As of today, Parks crews are almost four weeks behind in mowing schedules due to weather" he said. "City crews are working additional shifts as weather allows to catch up on these delays.  If weather improves and drier conditions prevail, we anticipate crews to be caught up on mowing activities in approximately two weeks time.”

Likewise to the proliferation of long grass and weeds during this years spring, we've seen an increase in mosquitoes form their depressed numbers in the past two years back to their normal population size. The return of the mosquito population to its regular numbers may create the perception that the mosquitoes are worse than usual.        

The City's Integrated Pest Management Lead, James Barrow explained it to us like this. “The current number of mosquitoes is normal for Calgary. As lower than usual mosquito numbers were seen the previous two years, perception may be that higher than normal levels are being experienced however, the reality is we are simply returning to typical levels.  Some of our control measures were delayed this year because of weather conditions, but we are continuing to monitor mosquito levels and will be using control measures as weather allows.”

The City of Calgary takes mosquitoes seriously as they are not only a nuisance but they can also pose a medical threat. The City’s mosquito control program aims to improve the quality of life of Calgarians by reducing mosquitoes, while protecting our natural spaces using means considered to have the least impact on the environment.

Through careful monitoring of the mosquito population in Calgary, we can determine if the population has reached unacceptable levels, that's when control measures are initiated. "Larvaciding" is the most efficient and effective means of controlling mosquitoes, and involves incapacitating mosquito larvae through biorational means. The products we use are specialized and have little or no impact on other life forms. For additional precision, any application is done with a granular form, which eliminates any possibility of drift exposure.

Late June and early July are the peak periods for mosquito activity in Calgary. The population declines rapidly as fall approaches. The species of mosquito that can carry West Nile virus usually appears in the city in July and August. Calgarians should take precautions to avoid mosquito bites. 
  • Use a mosquito repellent containing DEET or other approved ingredients on exposed skin; apply it to clothing as well, because mosquitoes may bite through fabric.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants and a hat when outdoors during peak mosquito biting periods (between dusk and dark, roughly 7:00 to10:00 PM in the summer). 
  • Place mosquito netting over infant carriers when outdoors.
  • Repair window and door screens so that mosquitoes cannot get indoors.
    Any container that does or can hold water is a potential breeding ground for mosquitoes. Keep water moving in fish ponds with an aerator, and cover or upturn any containers or old tires that could collect water and breed mosquitoes.
If you have concerns about the health risks associated with mosquito bites, please visit the Alberta Government Health and Wellness website on West Nile Virus at Alberta Government Health and Wellness.

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