News and Insights

Mosquitoes Take Flight in the Chaos of Climate Change

April 24, 2024

I foolishly thought that mosquitoes only start flying in from early evening and kept my windows ajar during the day, letting the sunlight grace the room. Yet, as I sat down to write this article, I can’t help but scratch at the several mosquito bites that pepper my skin. For the past couple of months, these pesky insects have been relentless, buzzing around me like tiny helicopters. It’s become more than just a nuisance; it’s a daily battle against an increasingly aggressive foe.

The climate’s changing and the mosquitoes are the only ones having a gala time. Warmer temperatures, scattered rainfall patterns, and increase in human activities are making them spread like gossip at a family reunion. This is reshaping the landscape of mosquito-borne diseases and catching several communities off-guard.

Nearly one in 10 (700 million) people globally are infected by mosquito-borne diseases annually.[i] In fact, a recent World Bank study said that the repercussions of a warmer climate might result in a minimum of 21 million additional fatalities by 2050, stemming from five specific health hazards: extreme heat, stunting, diarrhoea, malaria, and dengue.[ii] Therefore, mosquitoes and climate change share a complex and interconnected relationship, with the changing climate significantly impacting the distribution, behaviour, and abundance of these insects.

Expanding geographies

Warmer temperatures allow mosquitoes to thrive in regions where they were previously unable to survive due to colder climates. As temperatures rise, mosquitoes can migrate to higher altitudes and more temperate regions, expanding their habitat range. This expansion can lead to increased exposure to mosquito-borne diseases in populations that were previously unaffected.

Moreover, mosquitoes breed in standing water, and warmer temperatures can prolong the breeding season. This extended season provides mosquitoes with more opportunities to reproduce, leading to larger populations and higher disease transmission rates.[iii] Additionally, higher temperatures can accelerate the development of mosquito larvae, reducing the time it takes for them to mature into adults. This accelerated growth rate allows mosquitoes to reproduce more quickly.[iv]

For instance, the Early Warning System for Mosquito-Borne Diseases (EYWA) indicates a notable rise in Europe, with malaria cases surging by 62% and instances of dengue, Zika, and chikungunya soaring by 700%.[v] In fact, a couple of years ago, extreme flooding in Germany alone resulted in mosquito populations swelling to ten times their typical estimates.[vi]

Sustainable solutions

Mosquitoes are an essential part of many ecosystems, serving as food sources for birds, fish, and other animals. Changes in mosquito populations due to climate change can disrupt these ecosystems, leading to cascading effects on biodiversity and ecosystem health. Therefore, controlling mosquito outbreaks, especially in the context of climate change, requires sustainable approaches that minimize environmental impact.

Introducing or preserving natural predators of mosquitoes, such as dragonflies, bats, and certain fish species, can help control mosquito populations without the need for chemical intervention.[vii] Eliminating or modifying mosquito breeding sites, such as stagnant water pools, by promoting drainage, proper waste management, and landscaping techniques can reduce mosquito breeding grounds.

Implementing biological control methods, such as introducing bacteria like Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) or predatory organisms like copepods and nematodes, can target mosquito larvae specifically. Therefore, employing an integrated approach that combines multiple control methods, including biological, chemical (if necessary), and cultural, can effectively manage mosquito populations while minimizing environmental impact.

However, it is also necessary to engage communities in mosquito control efforts through education, outreach programs, and citizen initiatives. This can mean encouraging sustainable practices, such as proper waste disposal and the use of insecticide-laced mosquito nets.[viii] Communities can also learn the use of natural mosquito repellents derived from plants, such as citronella and neem oil, and deploy traps that attract and capture mosquitoes without relying on synthetic chemicals.[ix]

Health communicators play a crucial role in addressing the challenges associated with climate change. We can use various channels such as social media, public service announcements, and community events to raise awareness about the link between climate change and the proliferation of mosquitoes. Educating the public about mosquito habitats, breeding grounds, and lifecycles can empower individuals to take proactive steps to mitigate mosquito populations. Remember, when it comes to combating the buzz of mosquito-borne diseases in the symphony of climate change, every drop in the bucket counts. So, let’s roll up our sleeves, don our bug-repellent armour, and swat away the challenges of climate-induced mosquito mayhem. Here’s to hoping for a future when I can freely keep my windows open, without the constant buzz of these pesky creatures.










TAGS: Health

POSTED BY: Poorbita Bagchi

Poorbita Bagchi