The Asian Tiger Mosquito – Aedes Albopictus

Entrance into America:

Aedes Albopictus, known as the Asian Tiger Mosquito (or forest mosquito), entered America in the early 80’s. Albopictus was first seen in the Port of Houston in 1985 off of a freight ship of used tires. Scientists named the Asian Tiger Mosquito from its origin in Asia and the white stripes on its body that resemble an Asian Tiger. In 1894 a British-Australian entomologist, Frederick A. Askew Skuse, was the first to describe and name the Asian Tiger. He named it Culex Albopictus (Latin Culex “gnat”, “midge” and Albopictus “white painted”) but later reclassified it to the genus of Aedes (translated “unpleasant”). The spread of the Asian Tiger from a port in Houston resulted from shipments of tires across the South and East Coast. In the early 2000’s California had cases of the mosquito present but successfully eradicated it until 2013 where it has remained in Southern California

Left picture shows U.S. coverage of Aedes Albopictus mosquito. Right picture shows U.S. coverage of Aedes Aegypti mosquito.

Feeding Habits:

Both the male and female mosquito feed on nectar and other sweet plant juices but only the female mosquito requires a blood meal to develop her eggs. The female mosquito can track her prey by sensing carbon dioxide and other chemicals in human skin (lactic acid for example). The Asian Tiger Mosquito, known as the forest day mosquito, is the only mosquito that will fly and bite people during the day. Unlike other mosquitoes, the Asian Tiger will rest during the early morning and night hours while the other mosquito species are active. They are the most aggressive mosquito species in America and will search for hosts inside and outside of human dwellings.

Choice of “food”:

A normal blood meal for the female mosquito is around 2 microliters and this varies based on the size of the mosquito. The bite of the Asian Tiger is not painful but they bite their hosts more than once if able. Female Asian Tiger Mosquitoes leave behind a bump that is much more noticeable than other mosquito bites. The female Asian Tiger Mosquito is not picky on the blood meal and will also bite other mammals besides humans. They usually feed on multiple hosts before reaching the required amount of blood for reproduction which is why they are one of the leading species of mosquitoes that spreads diseases. This tendency to feed on human and other mammal sources was one of the big factors that lead to the outbreak of West Nile Virus.

Life Cycle:

The Aedes Albopictus uses any container they can find to lay their eggs. While other mosquito species will lay their eggs in any standing water, the Asian Tiger mosquito prefers to lay her eggs in small amounts of water and near the edge of the water. She also prefers to lay one egg at a time while other mosquito species lay rafts of hundreds of eggs. It takes about 7 to 10 days for an egg to develop into an adult but this can vary based on the temperature of the water and the amount of food available to the larvae. The Aedes Albopictus (much like the Aegypti) does not fly long distances away from their breeding site. Because the Albopictus bite people and animals they prefer to live near homes.

For a full anatomy breakdown of the mosquito visit the General Mosquito Anatomy blog post.

Below is the full life cycle of the Asian Tiger Mosquito:

  • Adult, female mosquitoes lay eggs on the inner, wet walls of containers with water, above the waterline.
  • Eggs stick to container walls like glue. They can survive drying out for up to 8 months. Mosquito eggs can even survive a winter in the southern United States.
  • Larvae live in the water. They emerge from mosquito eggs. This happens when water (from rain or a sprinkler) covers the eggs.
  • Larvae in the water. They are active and often called “wigglers.”
  • Pupae live in the water. An adult mosquito emerges from the pupa and flies away.
  • Adult female mosquitoes bite people and animals. Mosquitoes need blood to produce eggs.
  • After feeding, female mosquitoes look for water sources to lay eggs.

How to Control Them:

The Aedes Albopictus is such a difficult bug to control because of its ability to adapt to various environments. The primary way we should have controlled it was by monitoring ports, warehouses with imported plants, and stockpiles of tires. Australia implemented this method at its ports and is one reason Asian Tiger Mosquitoes are not found in Australia. The control of Asian Tiger mosquitoes starts around homes and where people congregate. The Albopictus is a weak flying mosquito so they will not fly very far (only about 200 yards of lifetime flying radius) from their breeding pool. Control of this mosquito starts by destroying places where they can lay their eggs: puddles that last over 3 days, gutters not able to drain, bird baths, flower pots, drainage systems that hold any water, or anything else around your home that holds water for a long period. We have found Asian Tiger mosquitoes breeding in turned over leaves. Remember that flowing water or water with minnows is not a habitable location for mosquito eggs.

What is Texas Doing to Control Them:

Texas and the federal Government are not doing a lot to control the spread of this mosquito or the diseases they carry. The most they are doing is providing the general population with education. Yes, this helps a little with controlling the population of mosquitoes but not as much as using pesticides. Some cities and states have increased the amount of fogging that conducted later at night or early in the morning but this treatment will not help decrease the population of Asian Tiger mosquitoes. These treatments will work for the other species of mosquitoes but not the Albopictus.

What can Tactical Mosquito Control do to control them:

Tactical Mosquito Control specializes in the installation and maintenance of mosquito misting systems. Unfortunately, these systems spray pesticides (known as adulticides) which control the population of other mosquitoes. The only true way to control the population of Aedes Albopictus is through sterilization of their natural breeding environment. At Tactical we offer a special yard treatment designed to combat the Asian Tiger mosquito. Our treatment applies to the plants and foliage around your home which targets the male mosquito. The pesticide we use is a growth regulator that stops the Asian Tiger larvae from pupating into an adult mosquito. The male mosquito picks up this growth regulator when he feeds on the plants in your yard and then takes it back to the brooding site when he delivers the nectar to the brooding pool.

Other Mosquito Species:

There are two other important species of mosquitoes in America. They are the Culex and Anopheles mosquitoes. In addition, there is one more Aedes mosquito that is important, the Aegypti.

References:

www.cdc.gov

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