A new study out of Baltimore highlights an unusual health threat: Low-income neighborhoods with abandoned buildings have bigger mosquitoes. Researchers found this to be the case after an extensive block-by-block comparison in Baltimore, they report in the Journal of Medical Entomology. Bigger mosquitoes breed more, bite more, and live longer, explains Scientific American, thus raising the risk that diseases such as the West Nile virus will be transmitted to humans. The problem is that abandoned buildings and related factors such as the accumulation of trash provide the perfect breeding ground for the insects. Researchers already knew this to be the case, but the new study—thanks to the painstaking measurement of wingspans—reveals that the conditions also result in larger bugs.
"People living in neighborhoods with abandoned infrastructure are more at risk, because tiger mosquitoes flourish in less managed landscapes," says the study's senior author, ecologist Shannon LaDeau of New York's Cary Institute, per a release at ScienceDaily. The post at Scientific American provides context: The issue might not be dire at the moment, but it could worsen in the years to come if climate change expands mosquitoes' territory and results in longer summers for them to breed. As a result, city planners should be aware of the problem and potential remedies. An interesting nugget illustrating the complexity: Planting trees and shrubs in low-income neighborhoods may be a popular move by cities, but it could actually make the mosquito problem worse. Community cleanups might be one possible way to help, notes a post at Entomology Today. (Read more mosquito stories.)