Slip, slop, slap and spray this summer...mozzies are on their way

25 November 2021

A very damp start to summer could mean more mosquitoes buzzing around over the coming weeks' according to CQUniversity adjunct professor and entomologist Andrew Taylor-Robinson.

Professor Taylor-Robinson is an expert in mosquito-transmitted diseases and has warned Aussies to be prepared for a summer swarm of mozzies.

"According to meteorological predictions' as a consequence of the La Niña climate driver the southern hemisphere summer is set to be wetter than usual. There's a strong chance of above average rainfall across much of northern and eastern Australia'" Professor Taylor-Robinson explained.

A La Niña oceanic and atmospheric weather pattern has become established in the tropical Pacific.

"Certainly' the end of November has been pretty soggy for many living in those areas.

"A combo of heavy rain' sodden ground and already brimming rivers is manna from heaven for mosquitoes."

Professor Taylor-Robinson said all mosquitoes need still or stagnant water to complete their life cycle.

"This could equally be residual water in clogged gutters' discarded tyres or backyard plant containers as the vast volumes in ponds' floodplains or wetlands.

"As the heat of summer arrives' mozzie season reaches its peak. The warm temperatures make them pass through their life cycle faster' so more eggs are laid and more hatch. Only towards the end of summer' when we are back at work and kids are back to school' may you notice a decline in bites since there are fewer of these pests (mozzies' not kids!) around."

We all know that mozzies are unwelcome guests at the backyard barbie and their bites are itchier than a knitted Christmas jumper.

"In order to reduce the prospect of you providing a gourmet blood meal' it is sensible to remind ourselves of the familiar yet excellent advice on how to avoid being bitten'" Professor Taylor-Robinson advised.

Beyond being an irritating pest' mozzies can carry disease-causing pathogens. Professor Taylor-Robinson said dengue was the most significant mosquito-borne viral disease globally.

"In Australia' thankfully very few locally acquired cases are reported (usually in Far North Queensland)' transmitted by Aedes aegypti. However' it is worth considering that many of the other mozzie species throughout Queensland pose more of a threat than just an itchy bite. This includes Aedes notoscriptus' the Australian backyard mosquito"' he explained.

"Viral diseases that are unique to this country and which are spread by mosquito bite can cause illness ranging from mild to very serious. Infection typically manifests as flu-like symptoms such as aching muscles' joint pain' skin rashes' headaches and fever."
Professor Taylor-Robinson said the only way to detect whether illness was caused by a virus transmitted by a blood-feeding mozzie was through specific blood tests.

"These are available for native viruses that occur increasingly widely in Queensland – Ross River' Barmah Forest and Murray Valley encephalitis. Each of these can be quite debilitating but for which there is no specialised treatment. There are several other related viruses that can cause feverish symptoms but for which currently there is no test' so infections go undiagnosed."
Adapting the old adage' Professor Taylor-Robinson said prevention was 'far better than no cure'.

"Hence' local authorities in many parts of Queensland' as well as other states and territories' routinely undertake surveillance to identify and monitor numbers of mozzies and to detect mosquito-borne pathogens. This provides an early warning of the risk of notifiable mosquito-borne infectious diseases."

Professor Taylor-Robinson's tips for a mozzie-free summer

  • Remove potential breeding sites on your doorstep – drain any standing water near your home;
  • Keep mozzies from entering indoors – install or repair insect screens on doors and windows' especially in bedrooms;
  • Keep mozzies away outdoors – sleep under a mosquito net when camping in a mozzie hot spot;
  • Stop mozzies biting – apply an effective chemical repellent containing either DEET or Picaridi or try a natural repellent' notably oil of lemon eucalyptus (Eucalyptus citriodora);
  • Wear the right clothes outdoors – slip on loose-fitting clothing' light-coloured and long if possible;
  • Make yourself less appealing – plug in an insecticide vaporiser (indoors) or burn a mosquito coil (outdoors).