There's a new invasive mosquito species in Florida. Will this one spread disease?
Published in Health & Fitness
An invasive mosquito with a curved mouth and a striped body is the latest addition to a growing list of nonnative mosquito species bridging the gap between the tropics and Florida.
The insect is known only by its scientific name, a moniker you’d expect from a comic book: Culex lactator.
This new species resides in two Southwest Florida counties and Miami-Dade, and is the sixth newly invasive mosquito to be detected in Florida the past five years, according to Lawrence Reeves, a mosquito biologist at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
“The most obvious concern is the potential for this mosquito to be involved in the transmission of viruses,” said Reeves, the lead author of a new study published Wednesday in the bimonthly, peer-reviewed Journal of Medical Entomology.
Scientists aren’t sure yet whether this particular species will help spread diseases to humans, but they do know it comes from the same group of mosquitoes that can transmit West Nile and St. Louis encephalitis viruses.
Another concern: Researchers in May 2020 discovered a Culex lactator mosquito in Florida City that had fed on the blood of a warbler bird. Viruses like West Nile and encephalitis commonly spread among bird populations, Reeves said.
“That’s probably something that we don’t want to see,” Reeves said in an interview with the Times. “Public health-wise, the viruses that we’re most worried about — that this mosquito would serve as a vector for — are really viruses of birds.”
Under the radar
After a long day of sweltering fieldwork in Miami-Dade County, Reeves and his team of entomologists drove two miles up the road for their highly anticipated reward: milkshakes.
One of their prime bug-catching spots is just south of the Florida-famous Robert Is Here fruit stand in Homestead. The routine is always the same after a day of trapping mosquitoes in the summer heat: Kick back in the car’s A/C, throw on a podcast and venture to claim their sweet treat.
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