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Mosquito plague expected after flooding

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Mosquito larva. Photo: Wikimedia
12:56 CEST+02:00
With most of the floodwaters now receding, Austrians can look forward to a plague of mosquitos of almost Biblical proportions, according to one scientist.

Peter Hufnagl of the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES) told APA that conditions were perfect for swarms of mosquitos.  He expects that in the next two weeks, mosquito larvae will be developing as a result of the flooded areas, with clouds of the biting insects emerging hungry and ready to breed.

He explained that there is a specific variety of mosquito that has adapted well to the flood conditions, and their numbers are likely to explode during early June.  

To mitigate the problem, it's necessary for land owners to remove the areas of flooding as quickly as possible - which could happen if the weather remains hot and sunny as expected.

The regular household mosquito (Culex pipiens) has a slightly different life cycle, and has not been widespread apart from pockets in Vienna, Lower Austria and Upper Austria due to the relatively low temperatures in recent months.

In order to observe the prevalence of mosquitos, AGES researchers annually collect thousands of mosquitoes in different locations, such as along the Danube, March, Mura and Drava rivers, and Lake Neusiedl and the lakes in western Austria.

They catch them with traps, in which CO2 or other substances attract mosquitoes, and a fan sucks them into a net, explained Hufnagl.

Then the mosquitoes are classified and analysed by molecular biological methods, in a search for human or animal pathogens.  This method of study was started in 2011, after West Nile fever virus was found in Austria, including in the bodies of dead birds.

A similar warning occurred in Germany in June 2013 (see The Local story https://www.thelocal.de/20130607/50133), when experts there predicted mosquito swarms after river flooding and torrential rains.

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