Pesky mosquito invasion creates bad buzz
A new mosquito species may be causing Cantabrians to suffer bad reactions to bites.
Christchurch teacher Donna Buchanan had to take more than a week off work last month to recover after a severe reaction to a bite.
"It was itchy and inflamed and it just got worse and worse over two or three days," she said.
"The redness spread across my back and round to my stomach. It was horrible."
Buchanan had to have intravenous antibiotics to fight the infection.
Trevor Crosby, a curator of diptera at Landcare Research, said a species of mosquito, known as the striped mosquito, or Aedes notoscriptus, had been spreading south over the past few years.
An article written by two scientists from Mosquito Consulting Services in 2010 said the species was common across the top of the South Island and in the Christchurch and Kaikoura areas.
The population had grown in the past two years.
"This mosquito is a day-time biter ... People will be reacting to a different species because of what the mosquito injects," Crosby said.
The mosquitoes could cause "very irritating" bites, he said.
John Marris, the curator of Lincoln University's Entomology Research Museum, said it "might just be a good year for the mosquitos".
"There could most definitely be a bigger mosquito population in Canterbury at the moment, especially with stagnant water in some areas," he said.
Ramon Pink, medical officer of health at the Canterbury District Health Board, said New Zealand's mosquitoes were not vectors for diseases such as dengue fever, malaria or Ross River virus.
Mosquitoes would gather near stagnant water and feed off the nutrients in water pools, he said.
It would be "speculation at best" to say liquefaction-feeding mosquitoes were causing people in Christchurch to react badly.
On a Trade Me message board, more than 50 people have posted about bad reactions to mosquito bites since the Canterbury earthquakes. The page, called Redzone Mosquitoes, was started last month.
Some commentators say they have ended up on antibiotics, while others say they have never reacted badly to bites before. Comments include:
"As a kid I was forever camping and being bitten by them, never come out with any sort of reaction ... Now from sitting outside I have a lot of bites that are red, swollen rashy and have a big hard lump under them."
"Anyone been bitten heaps lately?! I'm sure the mozzies and sandflies live in the liquefaction."
"Getting them here in Marshland too, never been a problem until the quakes."