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WEATHER

Insect experts see impending mosquito plague

The winter may have been long and cold this year in Germany, but that won’t stop a blood-thirsty plague of mosquitoes from hitting the country this summer, according to but experts.

Insect experts see impending mosquito plague
Buzzkill. Photo: DPA

“This year is a mosquito year,” biologist Norbert Becker told daily Mitteldeutsche Zeitung last week.

Heavy rains in early spring combined with the extreme heat of recent days have created the perfect breeding conditions for the insects, said the scientist, who has researched mosquitoes for more than 30 years.

In high summer the mosquito life cycle takes just one week, he explained.

“The larvae can survive the winter with no problem in eggs at temperatures below minus 30 Celsius,” he told the paper.

All the tiny pests need to grow is water and warmth, both of which are available in abundance in the country right now.

“In some places it can be that in two minutes several hundred mosquitoes will begin following a pedestrian,” said the scientist, who is the educational director of a community action group against mosquitoes in the Upper Rhine region.

According to expert Matthias Liess, who works at the Helmholtz Centre for environmental Research in Leipzig, climate change will bring even more mosquitoes as the years go on thanks to higher temperatures and increased rainfall. But Liess told the paper he may have a natural solution to fight the impending plague – water fleas.

Water flea larvae eat algae, the same food that mosquito larvae eat. But if the mosquito larvae have no food, they can’t reach adulthood to ruin next weekend’s barbeque.

“The mosquitoes settle mainly in short-lived bodies of water, places where they have no natural predators or competition for food,” Liess told the paper.

But in a recent experiment at a nature reserve near Dessau, Liess added some artificial competition, mixing water flea larvae with mosquito eggs to test his theory.

“It works,” he said, adding that the mosquito-fighting method would be particularly easy to implement in home gardens.

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WILDFIRES

Europe facing record year for wildfire destruction: EU

Europe's blistering summer may not be over yet, but 2022 is already breaking records, with nearly 660,000 hectares ravaged since January, according to the EU's satellite monitoring service.

Europe facing record year for wildfire destruction: EU

And while countries on the Mediterranean have normally been the main seats of fires in Europe, this year, other countries are also suffering heavily.

Fires this year have forced people to flee their homes, destroyed buildings and burned forests in EU countries, including Austria, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Some 659,541 hectares (1.6 million acres) have been destroyed so far, data from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) showed, setting a record at this point in the year since data collection began in 2006.

Europe has suffered a series of heatwaves, forest fires and historic drought that experts say are being driven by human-induced climate change.

They warn more frequent and longer heatwaves are on the way.

The worst-affected country has been Spain, where fire has destroyed 244,924 hectares, according to EFFIS data.

The EFFIS uses satellite data from the EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS).

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How the climate crisis is hitting Europe hard

The data comes after CAMS said Friday that 2022 was a record year for wildfire activity in southwestern Europe and warned that a large proportion of western Europe was now in “extreme fire danger”.

“2022 is already a record year, just below 2017,” EFFIS coordinator Jesus San-Miguel said. In 2017, 420,913 hectares had burned by August 13, rising to 988,087 hectares by the end of the year.

“The situation in terms of drought and extremely high temperatures has affected all of Europe this year and the overall situation in the region is worrying, while we are still in the middle of the fire season,” he said.

Since 2010, there had been a trend towards more fires in central and northern Europe, with fires in countries that “normally do not experience fires in their territory”, he added.

“The overall fire season in the EU is really driven mainly by countries in the Mediterranean region, except in years like this one, in which fires also happen in central and northern regions,” he added.

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