Scotland suddenly has a lot of mosquitoes

As the global temperature rises, so too does the range of tropical concerns. One of the most prominent examples of this is the increasing presence in temperate zones of vector-borne diseases once confined to regions around the equator–diseases that are carried by living organisms, including mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, and lice. 

The arrival of increasing numbers of mosquitoes in regions where they haven’t previously been a significant presence, for example, means the potential arrival of mosquito-borne diseases in places ill-equipped to deal with them. The latest country to experience this first-hand is Scotland, a country whose primary flying irritant has been the humble midge. However, a new research project is examining how widespread mosquitoes are across the country—and it’s found that they’re basically everywhere.

According to the BBC, researchers from the University of Glasgow hung traps at 24 locations across the country, and found mosquitoes at every one. In total, they found 16 different species of mosquito—a small fraction of the 4,000 species that exist worldwide, but enough to startle those carrying out the study: “[Researchers] were surprised to find the insects in all corners of the country.”

The University of Glasgow website describes the project as “the first of its kind … in Scotland.” This is a fact that seems significant in and of itself, because while mosquitoes were certainly present in Scotland before now—as the research program’s account on X points out, “This is not the first discovery of mosquitoes in Scotland… they have been here for millenia”—they haven’t been a significant enough problem to warrant study. As a result, according to the BBC, “Very little has been known about how widespread mosquitoes are in Scotland.” 

The lack of any such data in countries like Scotland makes it difficult to gauge how to approach controlling mosquito populations and mitigating the risk of mosquito-borne diseases. Surveillance systems of the type used in the study are the first step toward preparedness. They provide a baseline from which to evaluate how the situation is evolving, and help to identify potential risks: as the program’s X account says, “Our research will assess whether [mosquitoes] could pose a disease risk in the future.”

The UK is clearly taking the threat of vector-borne diseases seriously—the monitoring project is part of a wider program to examine the potential impact of vector-borne diseases on the UK under various climate change scenarios. Those impacts aren’t confined to humans, either—the Mosquito Scotland website, launched by the same researchers running the monitoring program, also identifies another, often overlooked danger: “Mosquitoes are already able to transmit diseases to wildlife in Scotland, making them a threat to conservation efforts.”

As well as the formal monitoring systems, the research team are urging the Scottish public to get involved by reporting mosquito encounters to the Mosquito Scotland website. So if you’re a Scot—or if you find yourself in the country this summer—and you hear the maddening whine of a mosquito dopplering its way past your ear in the middle of the night, you know what to do.

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