Apr 6, 2022 - News

"Aggressive" mosquito species is abundant in Iowa

Asian Tiger Mosquito

An Asian tier mosquito. Photo: Imaz Press/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Feeling itchy? You may have Iowa's newest mosquito species to thank for that.

  • Aedes albopictus — also known as the "Asian tiger mosquito" — is "abundant" in Polk, Des Moines and Lee counties, according to surveillance research by Iowa State University entomologists.

Why it matters: It was long believed these "aggressive" mosquitoes couldn't survive Iowa winters, Iowa State entomology professor Ryan Smith tells Axios.

  • But climate change may be contributing to their winter survival, allowing them to take root and grow in the state, he says.
  • Since 1970, Des Moines winters have been steadily getting warmer, contributing to shorter soil freezes and higher pest populations.

State of play: Back when there was a Zika virus scare in 2016, Iowa State researchers started searching for mosquito species in the state that could carry the virus.

  • Over the next five years, they continued to find the Asian tiger mosquito, a potential Zika carrier, in the three Iowa counties.
  • Genetic testing of the mosquitoes also showed the populations were consistent, meaning "they're kind of here to stay, more or less," Smith says.

They likely traveled from Illinois to Iowa through the commercial trade of tires, Smith adds.

  • The mosquitoes like to lay their eggs in the tires and they've been found "to a great extent" near related businesses.

What makes them unique: Other than the potential to carry Zika, these little buggers are "aggressive" in their biting and seek out any humans that are nearby, Smith says.

  • They're also active during the daytime, unlike most mosquitoes that thrive at dusk.

What to do: Smith recommends throwing out any outdoor debris that may have standing water that encourages the mosquitos to lay eggs.

The bottom line: It's highly unlikely they'll actually spread Zika in Iowa. But expect a biting nuisance during your afternoon barbecue.


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