Sunday, April 14, 2024

Invasive Mosquitoes On the Rise

It’s not uncommon to spot mosquitoes buzzing and biting on summer evenings. But this summer, many Blairstown area residents find themselves swatting at large numbers of the insects during daylight hours. According to the Warren County Mosquito Commission, there’s a troublesome new mosquito in town—and homeowners are the key to controlling its population.

Asian tiger mosquitoes, an invasive species, arrived in the United States in the 1980s and in southern Warren County as early as 2012. They were first detected in the Blairstown area three years ago, and their population in this area is now on the rise.

The insects are known for their small size, distinctive black and white appearance, and unusual daytime activity. And while most native mosquito species lay their eggs in ponds, wetlands, or large bodies of standing rainwater, Asian tiger mosquitoes prefer breeding in small containers of water, like children’s toys and flower pots.

“If you’re getting bothered by these mosquitoes, chances are it’s something on your property or something on the property of one of your immediate neighbors,” says Jennifer Gruener, mosquito commission superintendent.

“We’ll get calls from people complaining about getting eaten alive at their house when they go outside,” she adds. “We go there and search, and we find maybe a tire behind their house in the woods or a wheelbarrow that they forgot about a week ago and that’s literally producing thousands of mosquitoes.”

Asian tiger mosquitoes are aggressive biters, favoring hosts with exposed ankles and legs.

“They tend to bite low and work their way up,” Gruener tells the Ridge View Echo.

The insects can carry and transmit a variety of diseases, including dengue fever, yellow fever, Zika virus, West Nile virus, and Chikungunya virus, which causes fever and joint pain. Gruener emphasizes that to date, there have been no documented cases of Asian tiger mosquitoes spreading these diseases in New Jersey. But she says that because people may travel here with the diseases, the mosquitoes do present something of a threat.

“There’s always a potential with imported cases that somebody could come here with the disease, and a mosquito could pick it up and pass it on,” she says.

Gruener notes that while the commission sprays to control adult mosquito populations in the area, it does so only at night, in part to avoid harming honeybees. Because Asian tiger mosquitoes are active mainly during the day, spray campaigns do little to tackle the problem.

A more effective strategy, says Gruener, is to eliminate the invaders at the breeding stage. Asian tiger mosquitoes develop from eggs to adult insects in 4 to 7 days. The mosquito commission urges residents to patrol their properties after every rainfall—or at least once a week—to find and drain any small containers of water in which the mosquitoes can lay eggs (see Container Culprits, below).

In early summer, the mosquito commission conducted a phone campaign to educate residents about the threat.

“We really, really need people’s help,” Gruener says. “You can imagine for us, it’s almost impossible for us to control this mosquito because we literally would have to go from yard to yard. We’re trying to control the situation before we can’t control it.”

Gruener also advises Warren County residents to use an EPA-approved mosquito repellent.

Container Culprits
The Asian tiger mosquito is believed to have arrived in the United States on a shipment of tires from East Asia. Standing water inside discarded tires remains a favorite breeding ground. Other examples of small containers to look for on your property include:
● Grooves on patio furniture
● Depressions in tarps
● Corrugated drain pipes
● Handles or lips of trash cans
● Wheelbarrows
● Buckets
● Saucers beneath planters
● Discarded soda cans