In the offbeat Brando-Nicholson western The Missouri Breaks, a cowboy character worries about heading north because “The closer you get to Canada, the more things there are that can eat your horse.” He wasn’t at all worried about bugs that can drive you and your horse crazy (and worse), but he should’ve been. It’s probably too cold for killer bees, but we’ve got some pretty vicious flies and mosquitoes up here.
Mosquitoes are so much a part of life in Manitoba that there’s a small town about 70 kilometers (45 miles) north of Winnipeg named after them: Komarno, Manitoba. Komarno means mosquito in Ukrainian. In that town is a statue of a mosquito that’s 4.6 meters high (13 feet or so). Some people say it’s only twice life-size. Others claim that mosquitoes should be declared the official provincial bird (instead of the Great Grey Owl) because of their legendary size and enormous numbers.
What I didn’t know until just this past week is that Winnipeg has over 40 different varieties of mosquito and Manitoba has more than 50! That came to light when our city entomologist revealed that two new species of mosquito have showed up recently. A small, blue mosquito called Uranotaenia sapphirina showed up in 2008; that same year a black-tailed mosquito called Culiseta melanura also put in its first appearance.
You’d think with the billions and billions of mosquitoes we’ve already got (a veritable galaxy of them) that it would be almost impossible to find a new one, much less two. And you’d also think that one or two more wouldn’t matter much. But the black-tailed bugger carries a potentially lethal strain of encephalitis, and the little blue jobbie carries west Nile virus. Bugs like this we don’t need.
Oh, by the way, I got my first mosquito bite of the year yesterday. Earlier than expected. Golf courses should post mosquito numbers, not just handicaps.