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Scientists need help to find mosquitoes

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By Fiona Reid
Farming
Scientists need help to find mosquitoes

SCIENTISTS are asking people in Dumfries and Galloway to be on the lookout for mosquitoes, as new research shows they can be found in many locations across the country.

Mosquito Scotland – a collaborative project between the University of Glasgow, the MRC-UofG Centre for Virus Research (CVR), the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (UKCEH) – has established a surveillance project across the country, and has been collecting data on Scottish mosquitoes for a year.

Now, the project is launching a new “citizen science” website to encourage members of the public to report when and where they spot these insects in Scotland: www.mosquito-scotland.com/

Dead mosquitoes can also be sent for identification.

The project aims to find out which mosquito species are present in Scotland, where they are found, whether they are harbouring any diseases currently or if they could become infected by pathogens that may expand into the UK with climate change.

So far, researchers have found mosquitoes in almost every place they looked in the last year, covering the length and breadth of Scotland – including locally.

The information will be used to understand how common some mosquitoes are across the country, and which types are most likely to be found around people. It will also help researchers understand whether mosquitoes are a source of ‘nuisance biting’ in Scotland, and to generate baseline information for longer-term monitoring of how mosquitoes respond to climate change.

Experts say they can be found in colder, more remote parts of Scotland, where they are most active from May to October.

They can be identified as they are bigger than midges and make a high-pitched whining noise while flying.

Heather Ferguson, Professor of infectious disease ecology at the University of Glasgow, who leads the project, said: “Although relatively low in abundance, mosquitoes have been present in Scotland for millennia, and are a natural part of our ecosystems. While they don’t present a risk to human health here currently, climate change could increase the risk of invasive mosquito species establishing in Scotland.

“By sharing information on when and where they observe mosquitoes, members of the public can make a very valuable contribution to this research and help us anticipate and prepare for any potentially negative impacts of climate change on mosquito-borne diseases”.

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