New invasive, aggressive species of mosquito present in South Florida

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Another new invasive species is emerging in South Florida – a mosquito that was last officially documented in the Florida Keys 75 years ago.

Aedes scapularis has been confirmed in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, according to a new study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology by the Miami-Dade Mosquito Control Division, the Broward Mosquito Control Section, and Lawrence Reeves, an entomologist at the University of Florida, has been published.

Native to South America and the Caribbean, the mosquito was found in regularly monitored traps in Florida City and Broward County last year. The identity was confirmed through DNA sequencing last year, said Chalmers Vasquez, Miami-Dade County’s mosquito control director of research.

“This is a very aggressive mosquito that attacks people in the Everglades,” he said. This pest, the salt marsh black mosquito, can swarm visitors to Everglades National Park during certain times of the year, where large-scale mosquito control tactics such as spraying are not allowed.

Although it is a large biter, the new mosquito may be less of a threat than the Aedes aegypti with Zika and dengue, which is highly adaptable to urban areas. The Aedes scapularis don’t usually live in densely populated areas, he said.

And while the species is known to spread yellow fever, the Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus, and other human pathogens in their natural range, there is no evidence that it poses a risk to human health or animals in South Florida, Vasquez said.

“This species is not very well established so we haven’t seen any cases of disease transmission. But we will keep an eye on it as we do with other mosquitoes that live here,” he said. Miami-Dade monitors more than 320 mosquito traps across the county to analyze species and distribution in different areas.

Health officials reported more than 60 locally transmitted cases of West Nile virus last year after heavy rains caused mosquito populations to explode. West Nile is mainly transmitted by the southern house mosquito and other Culex species.

The confirmation of a new mistake calling South Florida home is another reminder that Miami-Dade is a gateway for invasive species. Scientists will now observe how far the aedes scapularis will spread. The only time it was confirmed in Florida was in 1945 when three larval samples were collected in the Florida Keys.

“The Florida Strait was likely a geographic barrier to the species, and now that it has crossed that barrier, Aedes scapularis could potentially spread further north and west to fill any contiguous areas suitable for the environment” Reeves told Entomology Today.

Of Florida’s 16 established non-native mosquitoes, 13 were discovered in the state for the first time since 1985 and 10 for the first time since 2000, Reeves said. “To speculate, there is a possibility that recent trends in climate, trade, and / or human movement are encouraging non-native mosquitoes in Florida, and our detection of Aedes scapularis is part of that trend,” he said.

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