Close-up of an Asian Tiger mosquito on human skin.
An Asian Tiger mosquito. (Photo Credit: CC BY/naturegirl 78/Flickr)

The Asian Tiger mosquito is the true invasive species of urban mosquito plaguing large cities. The Wall Street Journal reports that species Aedes albopictus, which is known for its black-and-white striped body, is as new to the U.S. as is it is vicious and hard to kill. Unlike most mosquitoes, the Asian Tiger bites during the daytime. Like most mosquitoes, it can spread potentially fatal diseases like dengue fever.

Urban mosquito goes for blood

Rutgers University etymologist Dr. Dina Fonseca points to the warm-weather Asian Tiger mosquito’s aggressive nature as its calling card.

“Part of the reason it is called ‘tiger’ is because it is very aggressive,” she said. “You can try and swat it all you want, but once it’s on you, it doesn’t let go. Even if it goes away, it will be back for a bite.”

With the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Fonseca is searching for the most cost-efficient means of controlling the Asian Tiger mosquito population. The current focus is using larvacides to stunt growth.

Thriving in city heat

Wayne Andrews, the superintendent of the Bristol County Mosquito Project in Taunton, Mass., explained to the WSJ that the extra 5 to 10 degrees of temperature in urban areas prompts Asian Tiger mosquitoes to remain there as late as October. Global warming is believed to have brought the urban bloodsuckers out earlier than normal.

“The Asian tiger mosquito arrived this year in June — three months earlier than last year,” said Andrews.

They came over on a used tire ship

Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believe that Asian Tiger mosquitoes came to the U.S. in 1985 on a Japanese freighter carrying used truck tires. The species quickly made its way from the Texas port of entry to Florida and all along the Eastern seaboard, said CDC researcher Gary Clark.

“Now, more than half of the states have this aggressive species,” Clark said.

Container mosquitoes breed in small pools

All it takes is a small amount of water for Asian Tiger mosquitoes to breed, said Fonseca. This is why scientists refer to the insect as a “container mosquito.” Climate change has made it easier for the creatures to thrive, and their “overwinter” adaptation has helped them to survive in harsh, water-barren climates.

Virulent tigers, itchy bites

Asian Tiger mosquitoes have spread the sometimes-fatal dengue fever and the similar but less dangerous virus chikungunya outside the U.S. The related rock pool mosquito has also been known to spread West Nile virus globally.

The Asian Tiger mosquito’s bite causes itching and irritation because of the protein secreted by the female of the species, which the human body treats as an invasive allergen. As the breeding areas of the insects tend to be hard to reach, spraying DEET-based agents has been less than effective to date. The chemical agent, which doesn’t kill eggs and larvae, is considered controversial by some scientists because it may be toxic to humans in extended doses.

Know your Asian Tiger mosquito’s climate requirements

Sources

Aedes albopictus Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aedes_albopictus

CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/exposurereport/data_tables/DEET_ChemicalInformation.html

U.S. Department of Agriculture: http://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/animals/asiantigmos.shtml

Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303795304576454312427933764.html

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