The Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) isn't technically new to the United States; the southeastern U.S. has been home to them for quite some time. But these pests are slowly making their way up the East Coast, as well as further out into areas of the country that haven't yet felt their bite.
Science News explains why this particular species will be especially annoying this summer, seeing as Asian tiger mosquitoes are extra aggressive. The reportedly strike from morning until night, they frequently live near humans, and their eggs can withstand cold winter temperatures. Plus, the Aedes albopictus is what Science News calls a "hit-and-run biter" that bites pets, wild animals, livestock, and humans alike. "It feeds on everything," says disease expert Duane Gubler with the Duke–National University of Singapore.
What's worse is that Asian tiger mosquitoes can also spread illnesses such as the West Nile virus, the chikungunya virus, encephalitis, and yellow and dengue fever. (Yellow fever, meanwhile, is the only one of these illnesses preventable through vaccinations.)
How did they get here, you ask? According to the report, Asian tiger mosquitoes were carried over from Southeast Asia along with a shipment of used tires (they were living as larvae in the stagnant water that accumulated in the tires.) From there, they gained a foothold in the southeast and began spreading north.
They're quite good at taking over territory, as well. The Aedes albopictus is displacing the common Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that previously ruled certain areas of the southeast. It's all thanks to a chemical released when a male A. albopictus breeds with a female A. aegypti which renders her sterile.
So … is anyone else getting itchy?