Mosquitoes are a nuisance. They disturb your outdoor adventures, bother you during dinners on the patio, and never fail to find their way indoors. These pesky fliers can also bring on itchy bites that get worse the more you scratch them.
And from mosquito bite to mosquito invasion, there’s a change taking place. A new species is making its way around California and elsewhere, and it’s unlike any you may have seen before.
The Aedes Mosquitoes
California has seen two invasive mosquito species in recent years, and they’re both types of Aedes mosquito. They’re unpleasant and aggressive invaders that don’t act like your typical annoying mosquito.
Where did these bugs come from anyway?
Aedes aegypti, or the yellow fever mosquito, is native to the forests of West Africa. Wild ancestors of these mosquitoes laid their eggs in tree holes where water collected after storms, and they could last for months in drought conditions.
Once people started coming into their natural range, these mosquitoes learned to adapt to human settings. This meant they shifted from tree holes to water containers. Then they shifted to feeding on humans, eventually coming to prefer people as a food source.
This species also has a long history of traveling around. It likely hopped aboard explorer ships in the 1400s and made its way around the Mediterranean before heading to the New World. From there, it traveled by ships, boats, and carts. Anywhere you saw a container with the potential to collect a bit of water, you might have seen a female mosquito laying her eggs.
For a long time, yellow fever mosquitoes remained in the Caribbean and South and Central America because of the warmer, more tropical-like temperatures. They started to move north once the global climate began to warm up too.
These mosquitoes moved around and started breeding in parts of the United States, including Florida, Texas, and surrounding states. In the early 2010s, these pests found their way to California, and have been irritating the West coast ever since.
Aedes albopictus, or the Asian tiger mosquito, is native to forests in southeast Asia. Unlike Aedes aegypti that once relied on tree cavities, Aedes albopictus mosquitoes have always used whatever natural crevices they could find to lay their eggs.
The Asian tiger mosquito didn’t begin its global exploration until the 1960s, much later than the yellow fever mosquito. It spread a lot faster, however, because the eggs have the ability to survive cooler temperatures. This mosquito also likes to feed on a variety of animals, including humans, dogs, horses, and birds.
Aedes albopictus arrived in the United States in the 1980s and made its way to California by 2001. These pesky fliers disappeared after some hard work helped destroy the mosquitoes in California, but they reappeared in a new invasion in 2011.
What Makes Them Different
Both species of Aedes mosquitoes are similar in their habits, and it’s easy to see why they’re not your usual mosquito pest. For starters, these types bite during the day as well as typical dusk and dawn periods. Aedes mosquitoes often bite the legs and ankles, and, because they’re also more aggressive than normal mosquitoes, you can get several bites from the same mosquito in minutes.
You can wave away other mosquitoes or run a short distance and not be bothered, but you won’t have the same luck with the Aedes invaders. These mosquitoes mean business, and they are relentless in tracking down their next meal.
Aedes mosquitoes lay their eggs in a lot of places—even spots that barely hold much water. From old tires to garden tools to toys, anything that collects water is fair game.
Aedes and Disease
These new invasive mosquitoes are also bringing disease. They have the potential to transmit illnesses like Zika, dengue fever, chikungunya, and yellow fever whenever they bite someone. They can also spread West Nile, encephalitis, dirofilariasis, and other viruses.
The Asian tiger mosquito doesn’t transmit diseases as easily because it bites humans and animals equally, but it still spreads many diseases with bad side effects. The yellow fever mosquito, however, is potentially bad news for people. This mosquito is the main transmitter for Zika, yellow fever, dengue, and chikungunya and has the potential to pass these insect-borne illnesses around.
Not all Aedes mosquitoes can give you an infection, but you won’t be able to tell which ones are harmful and which are just annoying.
How to Handle These New Pests
Now that you know where these pests came from, how can you handle them?
One of the best ways is to keep your arms and legs protected any time you’re outside. Wear long but loose-fitting clothing when you’re out hiking or camping so you don’t become a mosquito’s next meal.
If you’re lounging in the backyard, make sure you have repellents around, like citronella candles or bug spray. Mosquito-repellent plants can help to keep these aggressive mosquitoes from biting, but they won’t stop the pests from hanging out nearby.
If you have containers or other items around your yard, check them often to dump out any water they’ve collected. Flower pots, tarps, kiddie pools, and leaky watering equipment can also attract Aedes mosquitoes. These pests can even make their way indoors, so make sure you put screens on your windows and keep your exterior doors closed.
Got a Bite? What to Do to Stop the Itching
If you did receive a nasty bite from a mosquito, get some bug bite treatment right away. You don’t want to let the bite get worse because you’ll be more likely to scratch and cause a skin infection. And if you start feeling ill, don’t ignore the signs. You may need to see your doctor for treatment.
Bite Away is FDA cleared and provides instant mosquito bite treatment and relief. Just press the device onto your bite and let the heat break down the itch-causing proteins. Before you know it, you’re back on the trail, in the garden, or out on your next outdoor adventure.