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California's Booming Mosquito Population Puts Public At Increasing Risk

KCBS_740SANTA CRUZ (KCBS) -- If you think you're seeing more mosquitoes these days, you're right.  A new study from UC Santa Cruz shows the mosquito population in our state is growing at an astonishing rate.

California's mosquito population has increased tenfold over the last five decades. Now, like the researchers, your thoughts may immediately turn to climate change and warming temperatures as the cause, but that's not what scientists found.

"The major drivers in trends in mosquito populations were in fact changes in uses of chemicals, especially DDT, which was used, you know, in a widespread way for both agricultural and mosquito control, and land use. So, basically the urbanization of these landscapes," Marm Kilpatrick, the study's author and an associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Santa Cruz told KCBS.

Kilpatrick says urbanization is actually effecting mosquito populations in several ways.

"Including increasing the abundance of some mosquitoes that prefer human habitats, and decreasing the abundance of mosquitos that prefer habitats that are more natural in nature, so, things like freshwater swamps," Kilpatrick said.

Mosquitoes that do well in human habitats, for example, can breed in smaller amounts of water, like what might be found pooling in tires, or partially filled buckets. These also tend to be the types of mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus and the Zika virus.

The UCSC findings findings were published in the journal Nature Communications.

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