People have been spending more time than ever at home this year, but that hasn’t hindered mosquito populations. In fact, mosquito activity has quadrupled in parts of California over the past two years. What’s more is two non-indigenous, disease-carrying species of the invasive Aedes genus were reported in Southern California: Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti. The California Department of Public Health released a map of confirmed sightings, but these species have now expanded into other states on the west coast.
These “exotic” mosquitoes are nothing new to eastern states, but they’ve made their way to western states likely through travel, trade, and climate change.
Fortunately, mosquitoes can’t spread Coronavirus (COVID-19), but the Aedes genus is responsible for transmitting Zika, West Nile virus, dengue fever, chikungunya, yellow fever, and parasitic canine heartworm. For information on symptoms, click here.
Identifying these bloodsuckers
California has traditionally been home to mild-mannered mosquitoes, however, these two species are aggressive day-feeders. They both possess bold, black and white stripes, which is key to early detection.
Aedes aegypti (yellow fever mosquito)
Of the two species, the yellow fever mosquito is more dangerous and bothersome to humans. Not only are we their preferred host, but they inhabit areas where people congregate and bite repeatedly. This easy access to blood meals, paired with back-to-back bites, makes the re-introduction of tropical mosquito-borne illness in the US a potential threat.
The Aedes aegypti are native to tropical and subtropical regions like South America, but have been known to inhabit temperate territories as well.
Aedes albopictus (Asian tiger mosquito)
This species is striped and endemic to Asia, hence its nickname. Aedes albopictus are opportunistic day-biters that feed on a variety of hosts, not just humans. While the Asian tiger mosquito is less threatening, they’re still vectors of 30 different viruses, dengue being the most prevalent in humans.
Cycle of mosquito-borne disease
No local outbreaks have been reported yet, but in order for one to occur, the following steps must take place:
- A person becomes infected with a virus
- A mosquito then feeds on the infected person (during the first week following exposure), transmitting the virus to the mosquito
- The infected mosquito then feeds on healthy hosts, spreading disease further
- The cycle repeats many times, becoming an outbreak
Once a mosquito becomes infected, it is capable of spreading dangerous pathogens to subsequent hosts for the rest of its life. Since there are no vaccines or medicinal cure for most mosquito-borne viruses, prevention is essential.
How to protect your family
There’s no simple solution to eradicating mosquitoes, but following these prevention tips will make a big difference.
Eliminate standing water
Aedes mosquitoes only need a tablespoon of water for breeding, so any objects that can hold it, especially man-made containers, are a breeding hazard. Eliminating the source will reduce the chances of offspring.
Drain standing water around your property, such as kiddy pools and toys, spare tires, flower pots and saucers, tree holes, and pet bowls. If necessary, drill holes in the bottom of bins and flower pots so water can drain properly.
Keep gutters and rain spouts free of debris
Blocked rain spouts hold moisture and restrict water drainage, creating ideal conditions for breeding. Keep these areas clear of debris such as leaves and bird nests.
Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothes like long-sleeved shirts and pants while outdoors when possible. For an extra precaution, wear long socks. Aedes mosquitoes are ankle-biters.
Wear insect repellent
Always wear an EPA-approved insect repellent outside and reapply as directed. If pairing it with sunscreen, remember to apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.
Replace broken screens
Inspect all window and door screens for cracks and tears. Replacing or repairing broken screens will prevent mosquitoes (and other critters) from coming inside.
During peak hours spend some quality time in air-conditioned, screened, or shaded areas.
Visit your doctor
Prior to traveling to mosquito-ridden areas, speak with your doctor, especially if you’re pregnant. Also follow-up with the doctor if you or a family member displays unusual symptoms.
Call your veterinarian
Dogs don’t always indicate when they’re suffering, so owners have to be proactive. Make sure your furry canine companion is up to date on all vaccines and medications.
Treat your yard
Call a mosquito control expert to treat your lawn with a preventative application.
Call a professional
Now is the time to curb mosquito activity, as this will prevent them from multiplying and becoming a public health issue later. If you notice a spike in mosquitoes around your home, call Western Exterminator at 888-444-6138.