Declining bird population could help mosquitoes thrive

AUSTIN (KXAN) — You would think our drought would actually mean fewer mosquitoes this year. But experts it may make the situation worse.

That can raise the threat of the West Nile Virus which mosquitoes can pass to humans. Texas saw an outbreak in 2012 with nearly 1,900 West Nile cases. Eighty-nine people died, the highest number ever in Texas. Six of those deaths happened here in Travis County.

The drought is also impacting Texas’ bird population, which could lead to an active mosquito season.

“In our preserve is near Houston we often see up to a million birds and this year that shear number of birds was down, and down significantly,” said Laura Huffman with the Nature Conservancy. She says it’s a direct result of the drought.

“Often when you see a drought you see lower population of mosquitoes,” Huffman said, “because we all know they like water. But if there are fewer predators eating insects we might be seeing more insects.”

Dr. Kristy Murry at The Baylor College of Medicine placed Austin in a high risk area for West Nile virus this summer. During periods of drought people water their lawns, which she says leads to stagnant water in storm sewers where mosquitoes like to breed.

The City of Austin says the cooler temperatures that followed last week’s rains have kept large numbers of mosquitoes under control so far, but that could quickly change.

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