Why Climate Change Is Making You Itch



CREDIT: Shutterstock

The unusually cold, wet spring that stretched well into June for many on the East Coast this year seemed punishment enough in itself. But now it appears that while summer seemed like it would never come, the most dreaded part of the sunny season, mosquitoes, are here with vengeance.

The East Coast isn’t alone in it’s itchy misery either. While mosquitoes traps in Connecticut are brimming with twice the usual buggy bounty, Minnesota is buzzing with three times as many mosquitoes, and central California has the dubious distinction of having five times as many of one key mosquito species than has been seen in years.

Why the BBQ-busting onslaught? Jonathan Day, an insect researcher at the University of Florida, told the AP that in the Southeast this year’s spring deluge, which followed two years of drought, caused mosquito eggs long dormant during the dry years to hatch alongside the 2013 mosquitoes.

The complex dynamics of extreme weather like drought, heavy rains and heat is expected to bring more mosquitoes to a location near you in coming years. Yes, that’s right, the bringer of hurricanes, wildfires and crop-withering temperatures — climate change — can now be thanked for sleepless nights of scratching as well.

In preparation for buggier years to come, the Florida Keys are experimenting with using drones to locate remote mosquito breeding grounds in the island chains. There are also plans awaiting federal approval to release genetically modified sterile male mosquitoes into the population to mate with females and hopefully crash the numbers.

More than just miserable, mosquitoes can of course carry deadly diseases. Last year a record 286 people died in the U.S. of West Nile. In 2010, the Center for Disease Control reported 63 cases of dengue fever, and worldwide, the ranges for the mosquitoes that carry malaria are expected to widen.