Do you know which mosquito carries the Zika virus?

July 4, 2016By

While there have been plenty of reports regarding the spread of the Zika virus, many of these can be confusing. Even though it’s easy to assume that all mosquitos carry the virus, only a few do.

Do you know what they are and how you can identify them?

In this article, we’ll give you a few tips on how to identify one of the primary carriers of the virus; the Aedes albopictus. This mosquito is less common in Louisiana but is still good to know about. Here are the characteristics, its feeding habits, and its role in spreading diseases.

Characteristics

The Aedes albopictus mosquito is also known as the Asian tiger mosquito. This mosquito is native to the tropical areas of Southeast Asia. However, in the last couple of decades, the species has spread to other areas through travel and the transport of goods.

Asian tiger mosquitos have a small black and white striped body with black and white striped legs. Not only does this type of mosquito transmit Zika, but it can also transmit the yellow fever virus, Chikungunya fever, and dengue fever.

They measure about 2 to 10 mm in length though the variation of the body size of adults can vary depending on the larval population and the food supply contained in the breeding water. On average, the adults measure considerably smaller than 10 mm. The males are about 20% smaller than the females yet are morphologically similar.

Diet and Host Location

Similar to other mosquito species, the females use blood to develop eggs. Aside from that, females and males commonly feed on sweet plant juices such as nectars. Carbon dioxide and other organic substances produced from a host such as humidity and optical recognition play roles in determining the host location.

The Asian tiger mosquito tends to bite in forests during the day and has been called the forest day mosquito because of this. This can vary depending on the biotype and region, but the average Asian tiger mosquito tends to rest during the night and morning hours.

While they are active outside, they have been known to search for hosts inside human dwellings. The mosquito usually draws 2 microliters of blood for a blood meal. If they are able to bite a human host more than once, they definitely will.

In addition to targeting humans, the Asian tiger mosquito targets birds. When it comes to finding a host, they are cautious, yet persistent. Usually, their blood meal is interrupted before enough blood has been ingested to properly develop eggs. This is the reason why during their development cycle of eggs, they have been known to bite multiple hosts. This makes them very effective at transmitting diseases.

Role as a Disease Carrier

As was mentioned above, the Asian tiger mosquito can transmit a variety of diseases, not just the Zika virus. Over the course of time, this mosquito has been responsible for different epidemics and outbreaks.

For example, this mosquito was responsible for the 2005-2006 Chikungunya epidemic on La Réunion, a French island. By September 2006, it was estimated that there were 266,000 people infected with Chikungunya. As a result, there were 248 fatalities on the island.

This mosquito was also responsible for the only outbreak of Chikungunya fever which affected Europe. This happened in the Italian province of Ravenna in 2007 and unfortunately, over 200 people ended up infected.

The Asian tiger mosquito is making news in the veterinary world, too. They are common transmitters of a parasitic roundworm known as Dirofilaria immitis. This is a type of parasite that can cause heartworm in cats and dogs.

It is always best to prep yourself and your home during mosquito season. Removing possible breeding grounds on your property, using insect repellant and getting your yard sprayed is essential to a mosquito-free home.

If you find yourself needing some professional assistance, contact us today!

Filed in: Mosquito