[GLACVCD] – Measuring just one-quarter of an inch long, the black-and-white striped Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) is a force to be reckoned with. This insect is an aggressive, day-time biter and can transmit a slue of debilitating diseases such as dengue, chikungunya, and other encephalitis viruses. This mosquito species is native to Southeast Asia but has managed to infiltrate other areas around the globe. Here in the United States, it has established itself in Hawaii, Florida and other portions of the eastern and southeastern U.S. Recently, public health officials have discovered this dangerous pest in Los Angeles County, in the cities of El Monte and South El Monte.
The Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District and the San Gabriel Valley Mosquito & Vector Control District are working collaboratively with the help of neighboring agencies and the California Department of Public Health to control the spread of the species and eradicate it from Southern California. The districts are performing neighborhood surveillance campaigns in the affected areas, sharing information with residents as well as conducting backyard inspections. Officials are also visiting plant retailers, distributors, and warehouses where these mosquitoes could have potentially hitched a ride on imported plants. They are educating owners and staff about Asian tiger mosquito identification techniques and breeding prevention as well as conducting their own inspections.
The GLACVCD Underground Storm Drain Team has already mobilized, treating miles of underground storms drains in El Monte and South El Monte. Both districts’ laboratory scientists are monitoring for the Asian tiger mosquito by setting special traps designed to collect eggs deposited by females of this species. Surveillance is being conducted to determine the extent of the infestation and evaluate whether the Asian tiger mosquito has spread to other locations.
These mosquitoes are referred to as “container breeders,” meaning that the female lays individual eggs next to the water surface in buckets, flower pots and other small containers. These mosquitoes will even lay eggs next to trash that has collected water! Natural containers such as tree holes, bamboo and the inside of flowering plants such as bromeliads will also provide prime breeding habitat for mosquito eggs. Asian tiger mosquito eggs are particularly problematic because they can remain viable, or are able to hatch, even after many years under the right conditions. Once these eggs are recovered with water, they can immediately hatch in the right temperatures.
Residents can help prevent a further infestation of Asian tiger mosquitoes by thoroughly inspecting around their homes for signs of breeding and breeding sources. The Asian tiger mosquito eggs are tiny, individual, black and oval-shaped eggs that will appear in clumps next to standing water. These eggs will hatch into immature mosquitoes called larvae. Any signs of Asian tiger mosquito eggs, larvae or flying adults should be reported. GLACVCD recommends residents dump out water from all backyard containers; they should then either discard unused containers or clean them out to make sure that no eggs are left behind. It is also easy to turn over small containers to prevent the accumulation of rainwater. With the rainy season upon us, lids on trash cans and cleaned out rain gutters will help prevent these mosquitoes from laying eggs. For natural sources, watering the plants near the soil instead of from above will help prevent water from collecting inside the leaves and flowers. Day-time mosquito bites may indicate that Asian tiger mosquitoes are nearby and should also be reported. One person’s careful backyard inspection can help protect millions of Los Angeles residents from mosquito-borne diseases.
Vector control and public health agencies statewide will remain vigilant in their campaign to control the current infestation and eradicate the species. The public plays an important role in this campaign and will continue to be asked to report Asian tiger mosquitoes and eliminate breeding sources around their homes. Together, this problem can be solved and Californians will be able to continue to enjoy their current way of life.
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