As if “crazy ants” weren’t enough, a second insect invader known as the Asian tiger mosquito (Aides albopictus) has taken up residence in the U.S. It was first brought to Texas in a shipment of tires, according to the Wall Street Journal. These mosquitoes are not difficult to spot as they have black-and-white stripes on their legs and bodies.
This Asian tiger mosquito is more aggressive than other mosquitoes in that they tend to bite throughout the day (from dawn to dusk) and once they have you, they don’t let go. They are also an equal opportunity insect in that they go for humans, dogs, cats, birds, horses and whole host of other animals.
Mosquitoes (arthropods) are biological vectors that have the ability to carry a number viruses in their saliva amongst other pathogens. A biological vector, usually an arthropod such as the mosquito, transfers an infective agent from one host to another. The Asian tiger mosquito is very effective in transmitting disease. According the the Cornell Chronicle, the Asian mosquito carries more than 20 diseases including West Nile fever, dengue fever, yellow fever and two forms of encephalitis.
Asian tiger mosquitoes also transmit chikungunya virus. This virus generates symptoms of headache, nausea, vomiting, rash, fatigue, severe joint pain and fever. Currently, there is no treatment for this disease, nor is there a vaccine. Individuals generally recover from this disease within a few weeks, though a few individuals have died from it. However, if the infected individual is bitten again, the virus can pass on to the new mosquito. The newly infected mosquito can then pass the virus on to another victim effectively spreading the disease.
The Asian tiger mosquito was first introduced into the U.S. back in the 1980s and so far has been able to spread to 26 states mostly in the eastern part of the country. This mosquito is also found in South and Central America, southern Europe and the Pacific islands.
According to Science News, global warming has contributed to the spread of the Asian tiger mosquito. However, they have and advantage in terms of reproducing. Their eggs are capable of surviving cold winters.
It appears that the Asian tiger mosquito may be expanding its territory in another way. The common Florida mosquito (yellow fever mosquito) known as Aedes aegypti has drastically declined in Florida. It turns out that the Asian tiger mosquito larvae out-competes A. aeqypti larvae for food and develop at a much faster rate. Moreover, these two species are hybridizing. The product of this union is sterile offspring. There are chemicals in the semen of the Asian tiger mosquito that make the A. aeqypti female sterile.