Horror movies like “Jaws”, “Anaconda” and “The Birds” have become cult classics with the ability to show how scary animals can be when they are around humans. And while these larger animals can cause fear in the real world, there are many small creatures that generate nightmares as well.
Meet the invasive Aedes mosquito, an insect that really wants to bite you.
Originally from Asia, the Aedes mosquito would have traveled to California from a shipment of bamboo from China in 2001, according to the Los Angeles Times. Now the mosquito population has grown so rapidly that many counties in the state are trying to control the population rather than eradicate it.
But what makes these mosquitoes so much more terrifying than others? Their preference for biting humans.
Levy Sun, communications director for the San Gabriel Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District, said most mosquitoes prefer to feed on birds, but with Aedes mosquitoes it’s a whole different story. interest.
“With these Aedes mosquitoes, they don’t care about birds or other mammals, they prefer to bite people,” Sun told USA TODAY. “They will continuously try to bite you for a few minutes to get a full blood meal. So when you get five bites in your legs, it could very well be from a single Aedes mosquito.”
The differences with other mosquitoes don’t end there either. Aedes mosquitoes tend to be more aggressive, bite during the day, and can live both outdoors and indoors. They also tend to be more active in the fall, unlike other mosquitoes, which typically cease their activity in October.
Luz Maria Robles, public information officer for the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District, said they even found these mosquitoes alive in May of this year.
“We just didn’t know we were going to find them so soon,” she said. “The season for this mosquito is sort of getting longer.”
Another great danger of Aedes mosquitoes: viruses. West Nile virus is the most well-known virus that mosquitoes can carry, but these critters can carry many more, like Zika, yellow fever, dengue, and chikungunya, among others. Mosquitoes were responsible for Zika outbreaks in Florida, Texas, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, according to the Sun agency.
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So far, the mosquitoes have been found in 310 cities in 22 counties in California, according to state data, as well as in Utah. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2017 estimated that mosquitoes were present in almost every state in the southwest and southeast.
Robles said that what makes mosquitoes so difficult to contain is the way they reproduce. Typically, mosquitoes lay their eggs in large bodies of standing water, while Aedes eggs “look like a tiny grain of earth”, and insects can lay them in a water plug and on. items such as toys, buckets and plants.
“Eggs can survive in a dry form for several months, so it’s also very difficult,” she said.
Sun added that another reason the Aedes mosquitoes thrived is because they “took advantage” of people creating conditions for their survival. They don’t fly far, which means they usually go from job site to job site.
“These mosquitoes come from tropical climates, and through us here in Southern California creating microclimates in our backyards, we allow these mosquitoes to thrive,” he said. “You find them mostly in urban environments in cities.”
One way to get rid of mosquitoes is to have more native plants and vegetation in your area and get rid of all standing water, even in beverage containers, as well as communicating with neighbors to do the same. thing.
“You absolutely have to do your part as a resident,” Robles said.
Sun added that doing these things is a much better solution than just using pesticides.
“Compared to the native mosquitoes here, they can actually be more resistant to a lot of the pesticides that we put in our garden,” he said. “Our fear is that the resistance will grow strong enough where it is not as effective.”
When it comes to protecting your body, repellent is the best way to go, as well as covering the body as much as possible, Luz and Sun said. Mosquitoes are black with distinctive white stripes, and if spotted, people are urged to call their local mosquito and vector control service.
Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @ jordan_mendoza5.