Tiger Mosquito* Moms

A female mosquito hatches from an egg which has been laid in water by a mother mosquito. Sometimes, a female mosquito is born from a single egg placed strategically by the mother to provide a safe place to hatch. She will breathe air from a tube on her tail and feed on particles in the water using her well-developed mouth until it is time to transform into a mosquito. When the mosquito first emerges as an adult, she is a sugar feeder, and only after her mating flight does she become blood thirsty for protein to support her drive for healthy offspring.

This describes most of the general mosquito population but what makes a Tiger Mosquito Mom special?

The Tiger Mosquito is an adapted traveler. Originally from Africa, this type of mosquito came here hundreds of years ago on boats, which provided ideal accommodations for the mosquito to travel – lots of water, people to bite and places to hide. She adapted to finding a home for her young in puddles, rain barrels, standing water and, when the ships landed in ports, the species adapted to urban environments.

We don’t often see this mosquito in Massachusetts, as they like warm weather. Temperatures above 50 degrees are the optimum for them to keep a population active. That is a good thing for us in the cold north! The Tiger Mosquito Moms have some very specific association with famous virus pathogens that make humans sick: Yellow Fever, dengue fever and Zika virus agents all hitch a ride in blood meals from the Tiger Mosquito Mom and can be moved from person to person. Here in the colder northern areas, we don’t see those diseases very often unless someone travels to a warmer climate and comes back with an illness. Climate change is unlikely to create a hospitable environment for the Tiger Mosquito in our area, and summer outbreaks are not common.

So why all the talk and the maps that show that Zika transmission risks could move as far north as Massachusetts? The culprit is a close relative of the Tiger Mosquito thought to come from the East. The common name for this species is Asian Tiger Mosquito (Aedes albopictus).

The Asian Tiger Mosquito is an invasive and adaptive member of the Tiger Mosquito family. This mosquito was tracked in the US a few decades ago and has been able to adapt to living in colder climates. The movement of the mosquito is thought to be helped by moving tires, boats, and water-holding containers into new areas. We still don’t have a year-round population of Asian Tiger Mosquitoes here in Northern Massachusetts, but they are moving north and can be found in New York and Connecticut. This new invasive mosquito species is more of a generalist and not as human-focused, but it has been found to be able to carry some of the same diseases as the Tiger Mosquito. If the mosquito is on the move north, the general belief is that it will continue to expand its geography to our climate. If the mosquito is present and the disease arrives, there is a chance that we could get mosquito transmission of disease. That is why the Department of Public Health monitors for Asian Tiger Mosquito sites throughout Massachusetts, but especially in the southern counties. When those mosquitos arrive, monitoring and management will be key to keeping their populations in check.

Mosquito control and prevention are as much about awareness as treatment. Removing places mosquitos can breed is a key practice of organic mosquito control. By following a source reduction inspection process, inspectors can monitor your yard for likely mosquito breeding areas. Sources of mosquitos can be eliminated or treated with an organic product that will prevent mosquitoes from reaching adulthood. In warm weather, it takes less than 10 days for a mosquito to go from egg to adult. Using inspections and monitoring is a way to reduce the population of both native and invasive mosquito species. Mosquitoes are not the only way Zika virus moves around and there is a lot of research to find a vaccine that will manage the disease. Until the cure is discovered, personal protection, source reduction of mosquito breeding areas and public awareness of the risks are important practices you can use to keep yourself and your family as safe as possible from any mosquito transmitted diseases.

That’s why Velvet Green Organic Lawn Care is excited to be at the forefront of the war against mosquitoes. For more information about our new organic mosquito division, call us at 781-983-1200.

*Tiger Mosquito is a common name for the species A. aegypti because it is a black mosquito with white stripes.