Bug of the Day, Friday May 23
Does this bug look familiar? You’ve probably felt its bite.
To the average Florida resident, the Asian tiger mosquito is probably the most visible invasive insect in the state.
Chances are good that if you walk outdoors during warmer months, you’ll see one.
Native to eastern Asia, this species was first reported in the Sunshine State in 1986, in a tire dump site near Jacksonville. It’s been remarkably successful and is now firmly established in every county statewide.
For that matter, it’s established in more than half the U.S. states, though it’s most common in the Southeast.
This rise to prominence was no cakewalk.
As a container-nesting mosquito, the Asian tiger could only survive in Florida by competing successfully against a native species, the yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti.
One factor that helped: Asian tiger mosquito larvae are more aggressive feeders than yellow fever larvae. So when both species live side-by-side in pools of stagnant water, the Asian tigers get a bigger share of the decaying plant material that’s drifting around. (That’s what most mosquito larvae eat.)
While we’re not sorry to have fewer yellow fever mosquitoes flitting about, the Asian tiger isn’t exactly an improvement.
For one thing, the Asian tiger feeds during the day. For another, it’s relatively fast and fearless.
So this Bad Bug has required thousands of Floridians to start wearing mosquito repellent, long-sleeved shirts and long pants when they venture outside during daylight hours — not the most comfortable attire in Florida’s summertime heat.
If there’s one good thing we can say about the Asian tiger, it’s the fact that almost any Florida resident can help reduce its numbers, simply by eliminating possible nesting habitat.
All it takes is a few minutes to walk around outdoors and remove standing water from structures such as pet feeding dishes, gutters, flower pots, trash cans, recycling bins, children’s play structures, and so forth.
Some of these containers can be placed off-limits permanently by storing them in places where rainfall can’t reach them. Others can be modified by punching or drilling holes to allow water to drain before it pools up.
You can read more about this Bad Bug here in this UF/IFAS “Featured Creatures” document.