It may sound like a strange request, but Canadian scientist Dan Peach is asking people to send him dead mosquitos via post. Each squished bugger, argues Peach, can provide useful insights as he explores exactly how far mosquitos are traveling as a result of global warming.
Climate change and mosquitos
With average temperatures increasing as a result of climate change, more heat and humidity in the Global North are attracting mosquitos to areas that were previously inhospitable to them. While having more of these irritating wingers buzzing around is already an unpleasant thought, scientists are mainly worried that some of these pesky wingers may be carrying infectious diseases, such as dengue and the West Nile virus.
Citizen science is key to helping researchers keep track of these pesky bloodsuckers. In Europe, for example, people can use the Mosquito Alert app to help identify the mosquitos that bit them and upload pictures of them to the app. Dr. Peach takes it one step further by asking people to send him the actual evidence.
“We’re calling it the ‘Ow! What just bit me?’ project,” Peach, an entomologist at the University of British Columbia, told the North Shore Newspaper. “Basically this summer, if you smack a mosquito, put it in an envelope and mail it to us.”
The project is limited to British Columbia (BC) and the northwest Yukon territory. In BC scientists estimate that there are around 50 known species, but that there may be at least six more unaccounted species that could carry diseases like the West Nile virus. Though symptoms from the virus are typically mild, in some cases it can lead to muscle weakness and seizures.
“They absolutely are the world’s deadliest animal,” said Peach. “They’ve killed approximately half of all people that have ever lived.”
Help control and investigate disease-carrying mosquitos
If you live in BC or the Yukon, the next time you come victorious in a battle against a mosquito, fold the poor bastard in a piece of paper. According to Peach, it’s ok if it takes you a few weeks until you get round to mailing the sample.
Just make sure to note the date and coordinates where the encounter with the insect happened, before mailing it to Dr. Peach at Ben Matthews Lab, UBC Department of Zoology, 4200-6270 University Blvd., Vancouver, B.C. V6T 1Z4. At the lab, the scientists will grind the insect and check out its DNA to identify the species. Peach even promises to relay the observations back to you.