Dan Peach, a postdoctoral fellow in the zoology department, is mapping the range of the 51 known mosquito species of British Columbia. Afterward, he hopes to use the data for modelling to predict how their range might shift in a variety of climate change scenarios.
Other than the familiar buzz of a mosquito near one’s ear and the faint sensation of a blood-sucking pin-prick, humans don’t know much about the insects’ behaviour and movements, he explained.
“Do some species go farther east? Are some species just in the dry Interior that we don’t have on the coast or vice versa?” he asked. “We might see stuff now that wasn’t in these places 30 years ago. We might not, but then 30 or 40 years in the future, we might see things that aren’t there now.”
It’s important data to have on hand, Peach added, as some mosquitoes can be vectors of disease. By the annual number of human deaths, mosquitoes are the deadliest creature on earth.
As part of his research for the ‘What Bit Me’ project, Peach said he explores the wilderness — without bug repellant — and collects the mosquitoes that try to bite him. He also has a cup on a stick to catch their larvae in the water.
During grad school, he said he sustained more than 25,000 mosquito bites deliberately, many of which were necessary to keep the females alive in the lab.
“Obviously, B.C. is a big place and I can’t be everywhere at once all season. That’s why I’m trying to get this citizen science project off the ground.”
Peach is asking members of the public to collect their slapped mosquitoes and mail them to him in an envelope with the date, latitude and longitude of the kill. That location information can be obtained through an app like Google Maps.
Squished specimens are accepted, and if an email address is provided, Peach said the team will write back to inform the sender of what species of mosquito they dispatched.
The researchers hypothesize there are probably some species of mosquito in parts of the province they weren’t previously known to live in, and that there are some species known to exist in Alberta, for example, that have not yet been detected in B.C.
Envelopes can be sent to UBC Department of Zoology’s Ben Matthews Lab at 4200-6270 University Boulevard in Vancouver, B.C. The postal code is V6T 1Z4.
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