Common Mosquitoes of the Southeastern United States
As the weather warms up, mosquitoes begin to rear their ugly heads. There are 60+ species of mosquitoes in the southeastern United States, so we won’t be able to cover them all here. I’ve chosen the most commonly encountered mosquitoes from the three main groups: Aedes, Anopheles, and Culex.
Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus)
The Asian tiger mosquito was introduced into the United States on a shipment of used tires from Japan. The adult is actually quite attractive for a mosquito, with bold black and white markings. On the area right behind the head, there is a single white line and that is characteristic of this species.
Unlike most other mosquitoes, the Asian tiger mosquito bites during the day, particularly during the early morning and late afternoon. It prefers humans, but will also feed on domestic and wild animals, as well as birds.
This mosquito is particularly troublesome because it is an artificial container breeder, that is, it can breed in the tiniest amount of water being held by items and man-made objects – flower pots, buckets, and tools can hold enough water to support the development of the larvae. Dumping water out of containers and objects is a vital step in breaking the life cycle; however, what most people don’t know is that this mosquito glues its eggs to the sides of containers at the water line. While dumping out water is the first step, don’t forget to scrub the container to remove any eggs. The dry eggs can survive for months to years without water, so if you forget to dump out water for a few weeks, old eggs can still hatch.
In addition to breeding in a variety of objects right outside the home, it doesn’t like to fly very far, which keeps it uncomfortably close to us as we venture outside to get the mail, cook on the grill, or work in the yard.
This mosquito can transmit a variety of diseases, but most of these diseases are not established in the United States. The biggest concern is that it has the potential to spread Zika virus, should the virus make its way into our area.
Common malaria mosquito (Anopheles quadrimaculatus)
The malaria mosquito is brown with no obvious patterning. The wings have four spots created by patches of dark scales.
This mosquito bites at night. It prefers large mammals like cows, horses, and dogs, but will also feed on humans. It tends to travel less than a mile in search of a blood meal.
This mosquito breeds in slow-moving streams, ponds, and lakes with aquatic vegetation. Thick aquatic vegetation provides cover for the larvae, making it more difficult for fish to find and eat them.
Back when malaria was a problem in the United States, the malaria mosquito was of major concern. However, since the successful eradication of malaria from the United States in the 1950s, the dangers posed by this mosquito have dropped dramatically. It is, however, capable of transmitting dog heartworm, which is why your canine companions should always be up-to-date on heartworm medication. Whenever this mosquito is active, the potential for dog heartworm is present. Outdoor dogs are at much higher risk of dog heartworm because of their perpetual exposure to mosquitoes.
Southern house mosquito (Culex quinquefasciatus)
The southern house mosquito is a non-descript, light brown mosquito with dark brown appendages.
This mosquito bites during the middle of the night. While it will bite humans, mosquitoes of the genus Culex usually prefer birds to other hosts.
Like the Asian tiger mosquito, this mosquito will breed in any artificial container that holds water. Since there are a multitude of things in our yards that could potentially hold water, our homes are rich breeding grounds for these mosquitoes, as well as Asian tiger mosquitoes. Unlike the Asian tiger mosquito, this mosquito lays its eggs on the surface of the water rather than gluing them to a substrate. It is still good practice to dump water and scrub containers since you may not know which mosquito has visited your property. Really, the best thing you can do is minimize what holds water in your yard, because it’s not feasible to dump and scrub everything every time it rains. Remove clutter and focus on cleaning items that are permanent, such as bird baths.
The 2012 West Nile virus epidemic in Dallas, Texas was caused by this mosquito. It can also transmit dog heartworm, but it is not very efficient in transmitting the disease. It can transmit fowlpox, a common disease of backyard chickens, as well as quail, pigeons, turkeys, and other birds. Most birds survive a fowlpox infection, but some will inevitably die (the young or weak). Symptoms of fowlpox include lesions on the comb, wattles, skin, and beak. There is a vaccine available which will protect chickens and turkeys.