The Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, is a worldwide pest. Originally from the more Southern parts of Asia, its range now includes pretty much all continents, except Antarctica.
It was first discovered in the United States in 1985 breeding in tires in Houston, Texas.
As best as can be determined, the eggs, and maybe some larvae, had been secreted in a shipment of tires from Japan. Within two years, its range had spread to 17 states, and it is now found in 30 of the United States.
It quickly spread throughout the Southeastern United States, and by 1995, it has been found as far north as New Jersey.
And, it you want to enjoy an outdoor life, this pest is one of your biggest challenges.
It was first discovered in Europe in Albania in 1979 and is now firmly established in most of Italy. Specimens have been discovered in France as well.
It is aptly named for both its appearance and its behavior. Asian tiger mosquitoes are black with white stripes, resembling tiger stripes. And, they have a characteristic white “racing” stripe down their backs. And, as far as predatory aggression goes a feline tiger probably wouldn’t measure up to this fierce insect. People and other mammals are more likely to be bitten by the Asian tiger mosquito than any other species. It is considered an opportunistic feeder. It will attack any blood- bearing host, regardless of time of day.
Most other mosquitoes prefer the hours around dusk and dawn, this mosquito is most active from 10 AM to 3 PM, but will feed anytime a host is around.
It rarely travels far from the site where it was bred; so public programs targeted at its eradication are not as effective as individual effort.
This is particularly true since they are container breeders. Many mosquito species prefer marshes and swamps, which governmental authorities can target. This mosquito makes good use of man made containers, most of which are out of the reach of vector control organizations because they are most often found on private property.
Beyond that, the eggs are quite impervious to dry spells. The female will lay her eggs on the side of a container that is dry. The eggs seem to need a period of dryness to develop properly. Then, as the container floods, the eggs hatch.
The eggs easily ride out extremely cold temperatures during winter. So, your summer outdoor actvities will bear the fruit of this mosquito’s tenacity.
Before the ready availability of man-made containers, the females would lay their eggs in natural water collecting spots, like tree holes, and water collecting plants.
One of the problems with controlling this mosquito is that many females still resort to this practice.
Humans can clear away artificial breeding spots, like tin cans, tires, and birdbaths, but the mosquito will resort to her ancestral habits and still find a place to breed.
As far as preferred breeding spots go, the Asian tiger mosquito is especially drawn to tire casings.
This has been a major contributing factor in the expansion of their territory. In the United States alone, million of tires are transported around the country, and it imports millions of used tires from Asia, each year.
While the federal government requires imported tires to be clean, dry and insect free, only about 5% of imported tires are inspected.
And so, the Asian tiger mosquito continues to hitch a free ride around the globe on a continuing migration.
And, let’ not even talk about bringing home a case of virus when you travel.
Before importation of the Asian tiger mosquito, the most prevalent mosquito in the urban areas was the Yellow Fever Mosquito Aeges egypti. Now, mosquito control authorities get far more complaints about the Asian tiger mosquito.
Asian tiger mosquitoes are far more aggressive and persistent biters than the previous common types. And, they are active throughout the day, and their bite causes more irritation.
Unlike other mosquitoes, this mosquito will find a target, fly straight in for the bite and leave, making it much harder to swat them away. They are also more pesticide resistant than other species.
Efforts to prevent their spread have not met with much success. Control on an individual basis is, so far, the best way to reduce their numbers by eliminating breeding sites.
Both individuals and public health authorities continue to seek ways to stop this pest from causing further damage.
Driven to be creative in ways to stop their spread, some researchers have recently begun to experiment with the use of copper to reduce breeding.
Cemetery workers in Louisiana reported that bronze vases for gravesite flowers seemed to have fewer mosquito larvae than ceramic or cement vases. Research is now being conducted to see if adding copper tubing or pennies to breeding grounds inhibits reproduction. No reports of valid findings are in yet.
At this point, whether imported or not, the Asian Tiger Mosquito is now becoming an indigenous pest worldwide.
The best course of action for anyone is to be sure no breeding sites are available around the home, and to be sure neighbors do the same.
And, we can all hope that better mosquito kill technology will soon be on the horizon.