ALBUQUERQUE, NM — Go ahead with a stash of bug spray, experts say the recent spate of mosquitoes in Albuquerque could become the new normal.
“Almost everyone in Albuquerque has noticed them, and if they haven’t, they haven’t been outside much,” said Nick Pederson, the city’s department manager of Urban Biology.
Pederson confirmed that there are indeed more mosquitoes flying around Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, but says these are not the mosquitoes New Mexicans are used to.
“They’re targeting humans exclusively and they’ve figured out how to feed on humans without getting killed,” he said. “They fly quietly around you, they don’t buzz in your ears. There’s on the backs of your legs, your ankles behind your arm, very sneaky.”
Pederson says an invasive species of mosquito is behind the wave. It’s called Aedes Aegypti. The species is native to Africa but crossed over to the Americas during colonial times.
The New Mexico Department of Health confirmed that the species was not seen in New Mexico until 2016, and it took another two years for it to appear in Albuquerque.
Pederson says the city hoped the weather in Albuquerque would limit their operations.
“We thought climate problems would help us because we’re too cold and too dry,” he said.
That was not the case. Pederson says populations of Aedes Aegypti will begin to explode in size in 2021 and continue into 2022. He says an intense, cold winter could significantly reduce populations, but adds the species is known to find refuge in homes. and other buildings.
Ironically, Pederson says people are less likely to find the invasive species in the Bosque because they prefer to live near people.
“They’ve figured out how to make people their food source, which is why they’re around the house so much. They want to be close to the people,” he says.
Pederson says the species is also incredibly adaptable, especially when it comes to reproduction.
“These invasive species use much smaller water sources,” he said. “It’s as simple as a clogged gutter with a cup of water, or a fast food cup that gets blown into the bushes and now gets filled with rain and you might not even know it’s there.”
Pederson says the typical mosquitoes found in New Mexico rely on large, shallow pools of water to reproduce. He says the aegypti can reproduce within a week in just a bottle cap full of water.
The invasive species also poses serious health problems. Pederson says the aegypti are the primary vector for zika, chikungunya, dengue fever and yellow fever. He says there are no confirmed cases of the species transmitting these diseases in New Mexico; However, NMDOH did report the first mosquito-borne case of West Nile Virus Monday, but it’s not clear whether that case involves the invasive species.
Pederson says the city is actively looking for ways to reduce the number of invasive mosquitoes.
“We’re trying new things and reaching out to other mosquito control districts, seeing what works in different areas and seeing what works in Albuquerque to maybe help reduce the numbers,” he said.
Other states, including Florida, have released genetically modified mosquitoes into the environment. Those specimens are either sterile or designed to pass on genes to sterilize future generations to wipe out populations. Pederson says it’s possible this could happen in New Mexico.
For now, Pederson encourages residents to monitor and remove standing water before mosquitoes can successfully reproduce.
“Complete removal of breeding habitat will be an important first step. So that includes anything that holds water, just make sure mosquitoes can’t access it,” he said. “It only takes a single yard to have that negative impact on an entire neighborhood.”
The City of Albuquerque’s Environmental Health Department released this image detailing what homeowners should monitor.
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