June 23-29 is National Mosquito Control Awareness Week

By Allison Raeck, MNA Intern

It’s finally summertime; the birds are chirping and the flowers are blooming, but the mosquitoes are biting. In the midst of an otherwise perfect day outdoors, mosquitoes not only have the ability to annoy us, but they can spread harmful diseases as well. For this reason, the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA) has declared the week of June 23-29 as the seventeenth annual “National Mosquito Control Awareness Week.” The AMCA started Mosquito Week with the intent to educate the public on the environmental significance of mosquitoes and to promote safe control methods.

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An Ochlerotatus japonicus mosquito.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Regardless of their bad reputation, mosquitoes serve an important role in local ecosystems. The bug is especially vital to the aquatic food chain, as many fish rely on mosquito larvae for a main source of nutrients. Additionally, many other species consider mosquitoes a major food source, such as bats, spiders, lizards, frogs and several types of birds, including house martins. In tundra areas, mosquitoes are especially important to migratory birds, which would be expected to drop by more than 50 percent if the bug were completely exterminated.

On top of their nutritional significance, mosquitoes pollinate many plants. Since the blood mosquitoes take in is only used to provide protein to their eggs, their normal source of food comes from pollen. In Michigan, mosquitoes are known to help pollinate several different types of flowers, including goldenrod and orchids. On a global scale, mosquitoes in areas of South America pollinate cacao plants, which are used to make chocolate.

Still, while mosquitoes are vital link in our ecosystem, the species creates some serious problems. Mosquitoes are vectors of several viruses, such as West Nile Virus and dengue fever. The bug is also a primary spreader of Malaria, which is becoming especially prominent in many developing areas.

To help combat disease and to enjoy your time outside, it is important to take precautionary measures against the pest. However, some control methods can do more environmental harm than good. Pesticide spray, used through foggers to get rid of mosquitoes in the masses, is toxic to many aquatic species when it washes into bodies of water. Additionally, the spray pollutes the air, harming the humans who breathe it.

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The standing water in old tires is a common breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Luckily, there are many safe and easy ways to repel mosquitoes. One simple method is to get rid of areas of sitting water, especially artificial containers, as these are common breeding areas for the bug. Changing birdbath water often and mowing high grass can help reduce the amount of sitting water and, therefore, the amount of mosquitoes on your lawn. Also, certain plants, such as basil, marigolds and lemongrass, naturally repel mosquitoes, so having a few of these around could keep you from constantly swatting at the bugs.

Though they may seem like nothing more than a summertime nuisance, mosquitoes play a vital role in our ecosystem.  This week remember that, while it is important to protect yourself from this irritating bug, it is also important to do so in an environmentally safe manner.

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Plover rebound, mosquitoes, lake grants and a 216-mile kayak trip: this week in environmental news

By Allison Raeck, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA shares recent environmental news stories from around the state and country. Here’s some of what happened this week in environmental and nature news:

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A piping plover parent with chicks. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Plovers rebound with Conservation efforts (Grand Traverse Insider): Current measures to protect endangered piping plovers, small sparrow-like birds found on Great Lakes shores, are proving effective. The bird was listed as endangered in 1986, when only 12 pairs remained. The plover population has been slowly rising since then, with 58 pairs recorded last year. Attempting to raise these numbers, conservationists are breeding the birds in protected areas of the Platte River Mouth, incubating abandoned chicks and eggs and educating the public to stay away from areas reserved for rehabilitation. Though it will take some time to reach the recovery goal of 150 pairs, conservationists remain optimistic.

Urban blackbirds are more cautious than country birds (Conservation Magazine): Recent studies show that city-dwelling blackbirds show greater restraint than those from rural areas. A team of researchers collected 28 young blackbirds from the urban atmosphere of Munich, Germany as well as 25 blackbirds from a nearby forest. The team found that city birds took an average of half an hour longer than rural birds to perch near an unfamiliar object, which they say is likely a result of genetic personality differences.

Experts: Mosquitoes in Muskegon County showing normal activity for late spring, no West Nile Virus cases confirmed (mlive): Though the recent mosquito invasion around Michigan may seem especially intense, experts say that these numbers are nothing out of the ordinary for the spring season. April’s heavy rainfall combined with warm temperatures provided the ideal habitat for spring mosquitoes, which are expected to experience a population peak for the next 2-3 weeks. Experts say that, though West Nile Virus does not appear to be particularly present in Michigan this spring, it is important to watch for the virus this coming summer.

U-M Water Center Awards $570K in Great Lakes Restoration Grants (Great Lakes Now): The University of Michigan Water Center, a Great Lakes education and research organization, awarded twelve, two-year research grants yesterday. The grants were awarded to projects that followed one or more of the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative’s four focus areas: extracting toxic contaminants, combating invasive species, protecting wildlife and clearing nearshore areas of polluted runoff. Projects range from tracking harmful algae blooms to monitoring fish responses to restoration initiatives.

Student completes 216-mile kayak trip for fundraiser (Detroit Free Press): A student from Western Michigan University completed a 216-mile kayaking journey on Tuesday. Cody Ledsworth began the trip on Wednesday, May 15, paddling against the wind down the Muskegon River. Throughout the trip, he gathered donations for Parkinson’s disease research, inspired by his grandmother who has the disease. The 20-year-old eventually raised more than $2,300 for the nonprofit Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, far surpassing his original $500 goal.