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Climate change might prompt more mosquitoes to move into New Mexico

Егор Камелев
/
Pixabay via Public Domain

Climate change is having an impact on where many creatures live, including mosquitoes. That’s according to a new study from Los Alamos National Laboratory. The pesky insects are likely to become more common in New Mexico, just like a lot of the rest of the continent.

LANL Scientist Andrew Bartlow worked with a team to make two projections for several different mosquito species: one that reflects minimal damage to the environment from climate change, and another that shows major changes.

“In both scenarios, we found that most species are going to increase their distributions,” Bartlow said. That means mosquitoes are likely to push farther towards the poles in both North and South America.

He said increases in temperature and precipitation are just what mosquitoes need to call some places home where they’ve rarely been seen in the past.

The projection shows that a few mosquito species are likely to become more prevalent in New Mexico. But it’s also possible that some species won’t find rising temperatures in the American Mountain West accommodating.

Mosquitoes are major spreaders of disease,including West Nile virus, Zika virus and yellow fever. While the study didn’t focus on diseases that mosquitoes can spread, Bartlow said that it predicts, “that as mosquitoes move into areas based on the right climate conditions and habitats that the pathogens would probably be there as well, eventually.”

He also said the study should serve as a warning to cities and community leaders.

“They can be more aware and maybe set up surveillance programs, and just be mindful of testing for those things and keeping the community safe.”

Bartlow suggested that New Mexicans might eventually need to adopt a practice from the much more humid East Coast for avoiding mosquitoes – staying indoors when the insects are most active and ready to bite.

This coverage is made possible by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and KUNM listeners.

Megan Myscofski was a reporter with KUNM's Poverty and Public Health Project.
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