The Miami-Dade County’s Mosquito Control and Habitat Management Department puts a lot of emphasis on monitoring more than 200 mosquito traps across the area and dispatches a crew of environmental technicians to collect samples of each of them weekly.
A team of laboratory technicians and biologists then work to count, sort and identify (ID) the species found. Recently, that commitment to data and science has paid off in very important ways: it has been confirmed that the species Aedes scapularis is present in Miami-Dade.
The monitoring team, led by Research Director Chalmers Vasquez and biologist Johana Medina, worked with scientist Dr. Lawrence Reeves of the University of Florida’s Florida Medical Entomology Lab (FMEL) to identify the nuisance outside the area.
“Aedes scapularis report can be of great medical and veterinary concern as these mosquitoes are carriers of diseases such as yellow fever, Venezuelan equine encephalitis and canine heartworm,” said Vasquez. “It also underscores the importance of South Florida as a point of entry for invasive species that could ultimately lead to outbreaks of mosquito-borne disease in our population.”
The discovery of new species in South Florida means the mosquito population is dynamic.
This confirms the great work the Miami-Dade team is continuously doing and shows the value of partnering with outside organizations like FMEL, who physically housed county workers in workshop settings at their pre-pandemic Vero Beach laboratory.
The department also works on site with Dr. John C. Beier and Andre Wilke as well as the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Miami and Dr. Matthew DeGennaro and the Tropical Genetics Laboratory at Florida International University / Florida Aegypti Genome Group.
The mosquito is found in large parts of tropical America, from central South America to northern Mexico and in the extreme south of Texas as well as on some Caribbean islands. Previously it was only known in Florida from three specimens collected in the Keys in 1945. Female Aedes scapularis feed on humans and a range of other animals, easily enter buildings, and feed on human hosts indoors, and relatively few species of mosquitoes do.
“This collaboration with FMEL began in November 2019 with a request for assistance from Dr. Nathan Burkett-Cadena in various ID situations,” said Medina. “We received instructions straight away and they are very knowledgeable and helpful. They also share helpful and informative material. “
Reeves, a molecular ecologist and research fellow at UF who specializes in mosquitoes and the pathogens they carry, said of the collaboration, “We are always excited to help Florida mosquito control districts, especially as we work towards understanding Florida’s native mosquitoes and mosquitoes the arrival of new non-native mosquito species to better protect the Floridians from mosquitoes and the pathogens they carry. “
The full Aedes scapularis white paper is available at bit.ly/AedesScapularisinMDC. For more information on Miami-Dade County’s mosquito control efforts, please visit miamidade.gov/mosquito.
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