City of Albuquerque steps up efforts to address uptick in mosquitoes
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City of Albuquerque steps up efforts to address uptick in mosquitoes

As there are more mosquitoes in the Albuquerque metro, the city is working to hire a full-time mosquito technician.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It’s going to be a hot summer in New Mexico but you’ll want bug spray just as much as sunscreen.

You may have noticed more and more mosquitoes all over the Albuquerque metro before. They’re more aggressive than you might remember.

“It has constantly been changing over the course of about the last six years or so,” said Nick Pedersen, the manager of the City of Albuquerque Urban Biology Department. “It started off pretty significant, not quite as bad as last year. But right now, the models certainly suggest that we’re just going to see a general increase in the types of species that are in Albuquerque.”

City officials, like Pedersen, say it’s unfortunately something we might have to get used to. His team is tracking an increase with the use of mosquito traps.

“On average, we’re probably going to catch somewhere around 100 mosquitoes per trap,” Pedersen said. “They go back to our lab. They are sorted, identified, counted. And then depending on what type of species we’re catching, sometimes tested for things like West Nile virus.”

This is becoming a critical job. Last year, NMHealth data showed 80 confirmed West Nile virus cases in New Mexico. That is roughly eight times higher than the year before and the biggest surge since 2004.

“We don’t fully understand why that happened, why it came back like that in those numbers, but the mosquito landscape is constantly shifting,” Pedersen said.

Pedersen’s team is hustling to keep up.

Four-wheelers spray bacteria-based pesticides in problem areas, usually closer to the Rio Grande. It’s ideal to kill larvae before they become mosquitoes.

“Depending on what the situation is what we’re dealing with, if we’re worried about disease, extreme nuisance, we are able to do what I would consider adult treatments, and that’s the spray from the back of the truck,” Pedersen said.

Pedersen added new species of mosquitoes are going beyond just parks and neighborhoods near the bosque. And that requires a new plan of attack.

“Especially with aedes aegypti [yellow fever mosquito], we’re having to bring in new equipment and try different products and try things in different ways,” Pedersen said, adding they arrived in Albuquerque back in 2018 and rapidly spread through neighborhoods far from the bosque.

These mosquitoes ended up there because they can breed in standing water left after rainstorms. They prefer humans too.

The aegypti also carry more dangerous diseases, like Zika virus and dengue fever. They’re not easy to get rid of, either.

“We’re talking about a species that lives around people’s homes in people’s backyards,” Pedersen said. “It’s extremely hard for a mosquito control program to really do any treatment.”

Officials strongly encourage homeowners to pitch in and get rid of any standing water. Pedersen says it’s also time the city hires a full-time mosquito technician.

“Maybe they are doing door-to-door, yard-audit type inspections, where they’re actually going in and helping people kind of see what they need to do on their property to come up with mosquito solutions,” Pedersen said.

For now, keep the bug spray handy.

“I don’t think that we should, you know, be in a state of alarm or emergency over the potential for for diseases,” Pedersen said. “But I think them being present in the community is going to be the new normal, unfortunately.”