Climate change: Mosquitoes in January and wildflowers blooming 5 months early

Barcelona research center CREAF says mild winter temperatures are "altering natural calendars"

A rose in bloom in Olot on January 1
A rose in bloom in Olot on January 1 / CREAF / Josep Maria Mallarach
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

January 11, 2023 12:28 PM

January 11, 2023 05:26 PM

Mosquitoes in Barcelona in January, wildflowers blooming up to five months earlier than usual, the appearance of pine processionary caterpillars in December. 

Climate change, which causes increasingly mild winters, is "altering the natural calendars" of plants and animals in Catalonia, according to the Barcelona-based CREAF (Ecological and Forestry Applications Research Centre), which has collated observations through its citizen science projects. 

These changes in turn can also have consequences for the environment, exacerbating drought and harming fruit production

Mosquitoes in winter 

Tiger mosquitoes and common house mosquitoes have been observed in Barcelona since January 1, according to photos sent by members of the public to the Mosquito Alert project, run jointly by CREAF, the CEAB-CSIC research institute and UPF university. 

CREAF describes the sightings as "unprecedented" and evidence of the impact of climate change on shifting the mosquito season. 

"Warm late autumns and early winters lead to temperatures that are optimal for mosquitoes. There could be a shift in mosquito activity to autumn and early winter and not as much in the middle of summer as has been usual until now," they predict. 

Early wildflower blooms 

Wildflowers are coming into bloom between three and five months earlier than before, according to the observations collected by CREAF. 

Mountain roses in the interior of Catalonia, for example, have started to bloom an unprecedented four or five months earlier than usual, volunteers at the RitmeNatura project have observed. 

Broom and hollow-stemmed asphodel have been detected blossoming three months ahead of schedule. 

These changes have consequences for the environment. As plants are active for longer periods, they consume more water, leading to increased drought, CREAF says. 

Furthermore, the changes do not occur evenly in all living things. Flowers may bloom early before insects are present to pollinate them, leading to problems in producing fruit. There can also be cold periods and greater exposure to frost, reducing the viability of the plants and their ability to reproduce. 

Pine processionary caterpillars in early December 

Caterpillars of the pine processionary moth were detected at the beginning of December, while they normally appear at the end of January.

According to Alerta Forestal (Forest Alert) volunteers, the insects, which can cause severe damage to coniferous forests, are already present in Ripollès, Solsonès, Vall d'Aran, Noguera, Garrotxa, Osona and Selva.

Warm December

This winter Barcelona experienced its joint warmest December since 1913.

An average temperature of 12.6C was recorded, 3.9C higher than the average of the reference period of 1961-1990.