Eye of the Tiger…Mosquito

On a crowded shipping dock in China, some thirty years ago, a random mosquito laid her eggs in a pool of stagnant water, trapped inside one of the many tires waiting to be shipped off to the United States. Her species, Aedes Albopictus, is known by regular folks as “The Tiger Mosquito”, a particularly aggressive and invasive bug.

tiger_mosquitoNU_20120814172619_320_240

The offspring of that one Tiger Mosquito have been spreading since they first landed on our shores, spreading out from Texas in every direction. Now they have recently arrived here in Pittsburgh. There are several different species of mosquitoes in Western PA, and they all suck*,  but there are certain key issues that make Aedes Albopictus particularly dangerous.

toxoflower
Female Toxorhynchites rutilus septentrionalis, one of the common Western PA mosquito species under threat–click photo for complete list species.

Tiger Mosquitoes are hard to kill; one main reason is that they are out and active both day and night, and the traditional pesticides used to combat mosquitoes, called Pyrethroids, break down in sunlight, and go inert within a day or two. Also, Pyrethroids can only be applied by public health agencies and trained professionals, and the poisons are often mixed with oil or water and sprayed at levels of 1/100th of a pound of active ingredient per acre. Given the size differences, these suckers* don’t go down easy.

Tiger vs. gallinipper
Tiger species on the left, “Gallinipper” variety on right. Size matters.

They are also aggressive, and tend to be insistent once they have decided on who is going to be their lunch. Additionally, the mosquitoes transmit something called the Chikungunya virus,  which can cause debilitating symptoms, including severe joint pain, fever, aches, headaches, nausea, vomiting, rash and fatigue. (source)

But it gets even worse.

Source: sciencedaily.com
This is where it gets freaky

What is perhaps most disturbing, on an Environmental scale, is the fact that when a male Tiger Mosquito mates with a female of another species, he renders her sterile, potentially decimating the indigenous populations. The effects that outside species can have on Ecosystems is often profound, especially when an invader can make it difficult for original species to breed.

Tiger Mosquitoes tend to have the disposition of a wasp, the disease spreading power of a biting fly, and the invasive potential of kudzu. If I can leave you with anything to take from this, it would be to make an extra effort to dump any standing water that has been sitting  for more than a few days. I killed one of them going after me, and I assure you, you don’t want a swarm of these things at your bar-b-que.

*pun intended

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