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Categorized | Outdoors

Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche: What about those mosquitoes

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Have you experienced this many mosquitoes in the neighborhood as have been present this month? Usually September is free of most biting insects and a time of year when insect repellent is not needed. Recent weather provided ideal conditions for the mosquitoes’ population explosion. 

Twelve inches of rain in two weeks saturated the ground making puddles suitable for the mosquito life cycle. Temperature and humidity aided development. All that was needed were puddles in tree hollows or depressions on the ground that lasted over a week to allow mosquitoes larvae time to mature. 

Generally, our concern is limited to the adult female mosquitoes because they are the individuals that bother us. The nuisance of being bitten is a concern but the possibility of getting diseases spread by mosquitoes has many of us on edge. As the human population grows, the spread of disease becomes more likely. We are concerned about our pets getting heartworm. The recent death from West Nile Virus transmitted by Culex mosquitoes killed a neighbor aged 80 in our county and raised concern for our own health. It was reported another neighbor from the county, aged 60, was comatose from the virus. 

The spread of malaria is unlikely in our neighborhood even though the disease is a major population control factor in parts of the world. Usually the young, old, and those with existing health issues are most vulnerable. Humans are not the only species adversely affected by diseases. Throughout history diseases have been responsible for keeping species from becoming too abundant and preventing them from destroying the environment that supports them. Diseases are more important than predators. Even more important are environmental factors like climate change, hurricanes, drought and soil loss. These factors are not new. 

Our scientific ability to influence control over vectors of disease is new. By controlling mosquitoes, we save lives allowing our population to grow. By reducing nature niche population controls we are faced with different survival challenges. Human population growth from 3 billion to 7 billion in my lifetime is changing climate in ways as deadly as disease. Naturally, we take joy in scientific discoveries that protect our families from direct death assault. Vaccines protect us from malaria. Unfortunately, no vaccine protects us from West Nile Virus. 

We are reluctant to address indirect assaults on life even if they are enhanced by our daily activities. Such behavior does not come as naturally as stopping direct assaults on life. Scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports that excessive use of fossil fuels emitting CO2, increased cattle abundance with methane release from their farts, and habitat clearing to provide human housing space threaten human life. Deaths are not as obvious or immediate. Our behaviors are a death vector for humans similar to mosquitoes carrying diseases. 

To avoid being vectors of death, we can maintain a smaller sustainable population by limiting family size to no more than two children and waiting to have children until we are in our thirties. Times are different from when it was common for a family to lose 6 of 8 children before they reached adulthood. We are not mosquitoes. We can think, reason, and behave in ways to maintain a sustainable population if we choose.  

This means electing people to create society policies that use benefits from scientific discoveries. We cannot safely eliminate population controls like diseases spread by mosquitoes without compensating by voluntarily controlling our population in favorable ways to protect life. We disagree regarding the rate for reduction of fossil fuel use that threatens long term economic, social, and environmental survival. Some leaders dismiss supported evidence as fabricated science. We should not act like mosquitoes and reproduce excessively just because we can. Behaving intelligently and applying science wisely will serve present and long-term needs. 

I suggest people choose appropriate use of science and apply responsible actions instead of living like mosquitoes that reproduce uncontrollably with the result of a short-term population spike. This is supported by both science and by religious mandates entrusting us with creation care. 

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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