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  • Are we getting more mosquitos in the UK?

    Article
    Is the mosquito menace growing in the UK?
    By Virginia Brown BBC News Magazine

    Complaints of mosquito bites are on the rise in the UK. So should Britons brace themselves for a future mosquito menace?
    Hovering perfectly at ear level with a lingering, bothersome whine, mosquitoes leave you with bites that lead to itchy, swollen welts.
    In much of the world, affected by malaria, repelling them is a matter of life and death. In the UK they are a mere annoyance, interrupting summer holidays and barbecues.
    Based on a survey of UK local authorities, reports of mosquito bites over the last 10 years are 2.5 times greater than in the 10 years up to 1996.
    NHS Direct statistics show 9,061 calls in England complaining of bites and stings from early May this year to now - up nearly 15% from last summer. Not all bite complaints are due to mosquitoes - many can be attributed to bedbugs, midges and fleas.
    But conditions in the UK, particularly in southeastern England, are increasingly hospitable to mosquitoes.
    "The wet weather through May and June this year, along with a warm summer, has affected the population because mosquitoes like the standing breeding water," says zoologist Michael Bonsall at Oxford University.
    It's difficult to track mosquito numbers accurately, but the UK authorities are trying to do so.

    Mosquito snapshot

    • Culex pipiens is the most common mosquito in Britain
    • Only females bite humans, males feed off nectar
    • Bites often occur at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes' internal clocks tell them it's feeding time
    • A quarter of British species do not bite humans but feed on animals and birds
    • Anopheles mosquitoes are the only known carriers of malaria
    • Red bumps and itching caused by bites is an allergic reaction to the mosquito's saliva

    The Health Protection Agency has organised the Mosquito Recording Scheme to look into where and how mosquitoes live and breed.
    And the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, with help from the HPA, has created Mosquito Watch, a voluntary reporting system geared towards collecting and analysing various specimens.
    Not only do mosquitoes swarm over pools of standing water, including bowls left outside for pets, they appear under man-hole covers and even travel on London's Tube network.
    But while mosquitoes transmit deadly diseases in many parts of the world, they do not cause major harm in the UK.
    They may spoil picnics in the park, but they are usually only a major problem when Britons travel to countries with malaria, dengue or other mosquito-borne diseases.
    But once upon a time, malaria-carrying mosquitoes could be found in the salt marshes of southeastern England.
    It is believed that malaria - literally "bad air" - dates back at least to Roman times in the UK, and outbreaks occurred as recently as the years just following World War I.
    British doctor Ronald Ross, who discovered the malarial parasite living in the gastrointestinal tract of the Anopheles mosquito in the 19th Century, recruited teams to eliminate the larvae from stagnant pools and marshes.
    The Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) has been spotted as close as Belgium

    Malaria in England had effectively died out by the 1950s, mostly due to the draining of much of the marshland where mosquitoes bred.
    But because of the growth of global travel, the number of imported cases of the disease in the UK has risen, with nearly 2,000 a year today.
    In many cases, live mosquitoes have been found on aircraft, or travelling in luggage, having been transported from countries with malaria.
    On rare occasions, people may even have contracted malaria in Europe and North America, dubbed "airport malaria".
    Five of the 30-plus species of mosquito found in the UK are not native. One variety is coming alarmingly close to the UK. The Asian tiger mosquito - Aedes albopictus - known for its white and black striped pattern has been spotted as close as Belgium.

    While the species does not carry malaria, it does transmit West Nile virus, Yellow fever and dengue.

    "It is possible that Aedes albopictus could make its way to the UK," says Dr James Logan, medical entomologist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
    "Because they lay their drought-resistant eggs in transportable materials, like used tyres, there is a possibility that they can be transported to a country where they are not normally found.
    "Some studies suggest that they could survive the UK winter, however, to date this species has not been found in the UK and the HPA are keeping a watchful eye on it."
    Bonsall agrees and adds that predictive models show how malaria-carrying species could even make their way to areas such as the North Kent marshes, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk.
    Mosquitoes are becoming immune to the insecticides used to treat them - via spray or bed nets, according to a recent study from Senegal. Between 2007 and 2010, insects with a resistance to a popular type of pesticide rose from 8% to 48%.
    "This could be a big problem for future control," says Dr Hilary Ranson, head of the vector group at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.
    But according to Dr Logan, the health infrastructure and access to drugs in the UK means malaria is unlikely to take hold and cause major problems.
    Unlike much of the world, the rise of the mosquito will be a nuisance in the UK rather than a serious threat.

    Original article can be found here
    Comments 34 Comments
    1. udamiano's Avatar
      udamiano -
      Not heard of any cases as far as the Midlands, but have heard of cases on the south cost. the weather has alway been our biggest barrier with a good cold spell wiping out most of the problem. Interesting article though and certainly pause for thought
    1. santaman2000's Avatar
      santaman2000 -
      Quote Originally Posted by udamiano View Post
      Not heard of any cases as far as the Midlands, but have heard of cases on the south cost. the weather has alway been our biggest barrier with a good cold spell wiping out most of the problem. Interesting article though and certainly pause for thought
      Sounds logical but I'm not sure if cold really wipes them out. They survive very well indeed in marshy areas of Alaska and Canada.
    1. IanM's Avatar
    1. EdS's Avatar
      EdS -
      an old problem re-emerging. The ague used to be a major problem in the marshes of the SE in middle ages. This risk form mossies in he UK has been talked about for a few years now. Partly due to easy international travel and the risk due to climate change: http://www.cieh.org/policy/result.as...chBox=mosquito
    1. southey's Avatar
      southey -
      I have been hammerd by mosy bites(NOT MIDGE, i know the difference) this year, there is a field that used to be a sports pitch over the road from our house, the woodland around it resembles muskeg in that its always damp to wet, it have drainage channels dug into the ground and a ditch all the way round which hasn't dried so far this year, I have one bit currently itching on my calf where i didn't deet when wearing shorts while of on a forage yesterday,
    1. udamiano's Avatar
      udamiano -
      Quote Originally Posted by santaman2000 View Post
      Sounds logical but I'm not sure if cold really wipes them out. They survive very well indeed in marshy areas of Alaska and Canada.
      very true, but most of these types of environments have long since been drained for agricultural development in the central part of the UK, so their normal refuge from the cold is no longer available. Marsh area maintain a slightly higher temp caused by natural decomposition of the plant material, although it is very slight, it's enough to provide some measure of protection to the larvae over the Winter, and snow itself provides a insulation blanket on the top, protecting from the harsh blizzards and low temperatures.

      It is a good point though thank you for pointing it out
    1. santaman2000's Avatar
      santaman2000 -
      Quote Originally Posted by udamiano View Post
      very true, but most of these types of environments have long since been drained for agricultural development in the central part of the UK, so their normal refuge from the cold is no longer available. Marsh area maintain a slightly higher temp caused by natural decomposition of the plant material, although it is very slight, it's enough to provide some measure of protection to the larvae over the Winter, and snow itself provides a insulation blanket on the top, protecting from the harsh blizzards and low temperatures.

      It is a good point though thank you for pointing it out
      The marshy areas provide standing water for the larvae. Without standing water they cain't reproduce in cold or hot climate. Although I expect that the marshy areas are only viable where they don't freeze solid over the winter.
    1. udamiano's Avatar
      udamiano -
      not much standing water in the Midlands. I don't know if your familiar with the Area ( i see your location is the US) the Mldlands is (was) a highly industrialised part of the Country, so much of the area was given over to manufacturing, and housing, we still have green areas but these are managed, by the local Councils or the Wildlife trust /Forestry Commission, so this provided a unintentional barrier to the Mozzie, as any infestations are destroyed by the local environmental officers, who keep an eye on this sort of thing. and as you say remove their habitat remove the problem
    1. santaman2000's Avatar
      santaman2000 -
      No. Not especially familiar with the Midlands. I was stationed in the Cotwolds (1985-1989) As I remember though most of the country was either developed or farmed with very little marshy/swampy areas. If that's still true, I expect you're correct and there will be little impact other than an annoyance.
    1. EdS's Avatar
      EdS -
      plenty of standin water in the Midlands ponds,canals puddles on waste ground animal troughs to name but a few. Favourite breeding groundofthe Asian Tiger mozzie is stagmnant water in old tyres. Also how it got spread out of native area.
    1. santaman2000's Avatar
      santaman2000 -
      Quote Originally Posted by EdS View Post
      plenty of standin water in the Midlands ponds,canals puddles on waste ground animal troughs to name but a few. Favourite breeding groundofthe Asian Tiger mozzie is stagmnant water in old tyres. Also how it got spread out of native area.
      The old Tyres would definitely fit the bill. As would the puddles if they are of a semi-permanent nature and protected from breezes.

      However the ponds, canals, and animal troughs should be stirred up (animals watering or wading in the ponds, Breeze blowing across the ponds, boats traveling the canals, etc,) and thus not really get stagnant enough.
    1. sasquatch's Avatar
      sasquatch -
      Quote; NHS Direct statistics show 9,061 calls in England complaining of bites and stings Really? That just sounds wrong to me! I've never rung NHS Direct for anything, I can't fathom why someone would ring about a mosquito bite...
    1. Harvestman's Avatar
      Harvestman -
      Quote Originally Posted by sasquatch View Post
      Quote; NHS Direct statistics show 9,061 calls in England complaining of bites and stings Really? That just sounds wrong to me! I've never rung NHS Direct for anything, I can't fathom why someone would ring about a mosquito bite...
      It's probably the same people who think all of the countryside should look tidy, with neat verges and not a grass blade out of place. Sort of "I was bitten by a mosquito! Its an outrage! Who do I sue?"

      More seriously, some people may have serious reactions to insect bites, through allergies and so on, and may actually require treatment after a mozzie bite, even if all it does to other people is make them itch for a day or two.
    1. Welshwizard's Avatar
      Welshwizard -
      I,ve noticed an increase in all our biting insects this year ,for first time I can remember i,ve even had midges in our house biting me (in warm weather we sit with front door open ) and horse flies seem to be everywhere .
    1. santaman2000's Avatar
      santaman2000 -
      Quote Originally Posted by sasquatch View Post
      Quote; NHS Direct statistics show 9,061 calls in England complaining of bites and stings Really? That just sounds wrong to me! I've never rung NHS Direct for anything, I can't fathom why someone would ring about a mosquito bite...
      Is that the whole quote? If so it's unclear if they were just mosquito bite or maybe bee/wasp stings and spider bites as well.
    1. sasquatch's Avatar
      sasquatch -
      Quote Originally Posted by santaman2000 View Post
      Is that the whole quote? If so it's unclear if they were just mosquito bite or maybe bee/wasp stings and spider bites as well.
      I just took it from the above article so I'm not too sure, let's hope it includes some bee stings and spider bites as well!
    1. BOD's Avatar
      BOD -
      Your big problem is likely to be dengue as the mosquito and the eggs of Aedes albopictus apparently can tolerate sub-zero conditions and the eggs dos not need to be in water but near water and can live in Switzerland.

      Once it is established theres not much you can do even Singapore with its wealth, small size and efficeiency has failed to eradicate dengue as the mosquitos have adapted to live where we live.
    1. Sparrowhawk's Avatar
      Sparrowhawk -
      Quote Originally Posted by BOD View Post
      Your big problem is likely to be dengue as the mosquito and the eggs of Aedes albopictus apparently can tolerate sub-zero conditions and the eggs dos not need to be in water but near water and can live in Switzerland.
      What does Switzerland have to with anything? Lots of things live in Switzerland. It has a very nice climate, which is attractive to mosquitoes, wasps, butterflies, moths and bankers. In summer it's a lot warmer there than it is here. I spent all my summers there as a kid and love the place. I never came across many mozzys or midges though, primarily I think because there was very little stagnant water. Lot of horse flies though!
    1. santaman2000's Avatar
      santaman2000 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Sparrowhawk View Post
      What does Switzerland have to with anything? Lots of things live in Switzerland. It has a very nice climate, which is attractive to mosquitoes, wasps, butterflies, moths and bankers. In summer it's a lot warmer there than it is here. I spent all my summers there as a kid and love the place. I never came across many mozzys or midges though, primarily I think because there was very little stagnant water. Lot of horse flies though!
      I don't think he was referring to the Summer climate. Rather this particular species ability to adapt to to survive colder Winters (hibernation abilities) and drier (no standing water required) areas.
    1. santaman2000's Avatar
      santaman2000 -
      Quote Originally Posted by BOD View Post
      ...Once it is established theres not much you can do even Singapore with its wealth, small size and efficeiency has failed to eradicate dengue as the mosquitos have adapted to live where we live.
      Yeah I don't know any country that has ever been able to completely eradicate mosquitoes but they can be controlled to an extent. The county is constantly fogging over here throughout the Summer. One of the best natural methods is to encourage your Bat population.