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Gardening Tips: Grateful to not be overrun by monster mosquitoes

August 31, 2018 11:39 am Updated: August 31, 2018 11:52 am


As we approach the Labor Day weekend it seems like yet another summer season has transpired much too quickly to suit me.

We started out very dry, but that changed dramatically in late July into August. By all accounts, it has been a banner year for wild mushrooms of all sorts. I cannot recall ever seeing or harvesting as many tasty edibles as I have this season.

My cupboard is full of dried chanterelles, black trumpets, porcini, as well as both canned and frozen cooked mushrooms.

I do look forward to harvesting some of the fall species that I also enjoy such as Maitake, or hen of the woods (Grifola frondosa).

The almost daily afternoon storms seem to have subsided for at least a brief respite, but the resulting puddles and water accumulating areas have given rise to far more mosquitoes than we would see in a “normal” season.

The bulk of this week’s column was written by Paul Hetzler from Cornell Cooperative Extension of St Lawrence County.

Although the early part of our summer was a lot drier than normal, which resulted in a temporary lull in the mosquito population, the little ear-whiners seem to be making up for lost time now that we have gotten all this rain. The evenings have been replete with blood suckers in the past couple of weeks.

Really all it takes is one mosquito in the room to spoil a night’s sleep. I’m convinced their ear-buzzing is meant to raise our blood pressure so they fill up faster. Makes you wish you could return the favor somehow.

Well, if they actually slept, there is something that might keep them up at night: The Mosquito Monster! Or rather, the monster mosquito, Psorophora ciliata.

In addition to terrorizing campers and picnickers, this hulking menace, two to three times the size of most mosquitoes, regularly dines on its smaller kin.

The cannibalism only happens in the larval stage, but still, when Psorophora ciliata touches down, I like to imagine that even full-grown mosquitoes back away slowly. It would be comparable to having an 18-foot-tall biker cut the line at the deli. You’d back down, from her, right? (Remember that all those winged vampires are females — the males are strict vegans who eat flower nectar.)

Not only is it big — more than 2.5 centimetres long, and possessing a 1.5 cm. wingspan — this native ’skeeter is aggressive, and delivers a unusually painful bite.

Through the years the monster mosquito has engendered more than a few nicknames, most of which are not fit to print. Dubbed the “gallinipper,” or “shaggy-legged gallinipper” because of its fuzzy or appearance, Psorophora ciliata was described in 1897 by naturalist David Flanery in the journal Nature as “…the shyest, slyest, meanest and most venomous of them all.”

Depending on environmental conditions and species, mosquitoes live between a week and a few months, but during that time a single fertile female can potentially spawn thousands of progeny.

It is important to limit standing water on our properties to help control mosquitoes. They can breed in just a few millilitres of even the filthiest water. Change pets’ water often, and clean their dish every time, as mosquito eggs stick to the inside of containers. The same goes for birdbaths or kiddie pools.

If there is one “nice” thing you could say about Psorophora ciliata, it is that it does not transmit disease, as far as anyone knows.

There are roughly 60-70 species of mosquitoes in southern Ontario and Québec, and just a few of them can carry diseases such as West Nile virus, eastern equine encephalitis, or Zika virus.

Another plus, of sorts, is that the shaggy-legged gallinipper has never become very numerous. In fact, raising Psorophora ciliata was once proposed as a method of keeping the populations of disease-carrying mosquitoes in check, but no one could figure out how to produce enough gallinippers to create an effective control.

Whatever the reason they don’t breed like flies, we should all be grateful we’re not overrun by monster mosquitoes.

Reach Bob Beyfuss at