Although it is not clear if this Culex lactator mosquito will transmit mosquito-borne viruses to Florida, scientists are concerned about the growth of new mosquitoes in Florida.
Florida is home to approximately 90 species of mosquitoes. This number is increasing as more species are introduced from other parts of the world. Lawrence Reeves (assistant professor and mosquito biologist at University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Research Center, Vero Beach) was the lead author of the study.
Culex lactator, which was first found in south Miami-Dade County in 2018, is now in Collier & Lee Counties. Reeves suggested that it may have already spread to other parts of the state.
He said that although mosquitoes are one of the most studied insects in the world, there is still a lot to learn.
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This is especially true for species found in tropical forests where mosquitoes are abundant and understudied, Reeves, stated in a university press release.
Introducements of new species of mosquitoes like this one are alarming because most of our greatest mosquito-related problems are caused by nonnative mosquitoes. In a case such as this, it is difficult to predict what to expect since we don’t know much about the species.
Culex lactator belongs to the Culex family of mosquitoes. This group includes species that transmit the West Nile virus and St. Louis Encephalitis viruses. It is most common in Central America and northern South America.
Reeves and his team used DNA analysis and other tools to find that there was a new species in the area and to identify it among the more than 3,600 types of mosquitoes found around the world.
Florida faces challenges each year from mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile virus, Eastern equine encephalitis virus, dengue virus, chikungunya virus, and others.
It is too early to know whether Culex lactator will increase these challenges, but the implications are often difficult to predict because not all mosquito species are equally capable of transmitting a particular virus or other pathogen, Reeves said. “
He said that each mosquito-borne virus is transmitted by only a few mosquito species.
We need to be vigilant about introducing new species of mosquitoes because each introduction comes with the possibility that the introduced species will facilitate the transmission of a mosquito-borne disease, Reeves said.
Culex lactator is physically similar to mosquito species already known from Florida. It looks like other more common mosquito species,” said Reeves. Because of that similarity, the presence of Culex lactator in an area can be easy to miss.
As many as 17 nonnative mosquito species are established in Florida. And detections of nonnative mosquito species are increasingly frequent, with 11 of 17 nonnative species first reported in the past two decades. Six were detected in only the past five years.
The mosquitoes Aedes aegypti, Aedes albopictus, and Culex quinquefasciatus are all nonnative species, introduced from the tropics and among the most important disease vectors in the United States.
Climate change may improve the chances of tropical mosquito species becoming established once they make it to Florida if the state becomes warmer, Reeves said. Increasing storm frequency and intensity could also blow in more mosquitoes and other species from the Caribbean, Central America, and elsewhere.