Jun 28, 2016

Peril on Wings: 6 of America’s Most Dangerous Mosquitoes

Florida
USA
by
Emily S. Rueb
,
The New York Times
Aedes aegypti (left) and culex tarsalis (right). Image: Vichai Malikul/Department of Entomology/Smithsonian Institution
Aedes aegypti (left) and culex tarsalis (right). Image: Vichai Malikul/Department of Entomology/Smithsonian Institution

With the spread of the Zika virus, the threat posed by the tiny mosquito has been magnified into shark-size proportions.

But among the more than 3,000 species of the insect worldwide, only two in the Americas are known carriers of the virus: the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegyptiand the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus).

The potential range of the two species in the United States helps explain where Zika could be a threat. The yellow fever mosquito, for instance, prefers the hot and humid climate in Florida and the southeastern part of the country. But it has colonized states as far west as California and Hawaii, and has the potential to live as far north as Connecticut in warmer weather, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Asian tiger mosquito, meanwhile, also favors tropical and subtropical locales but can withstand cooler temperatures, so it can range farther. In summertime, the insect can sometimes even be found in northern states like Maine and Minnesota.

Maps showing where the species might survive, notably, exempt the Northwest, the Mountain West and northern parts of the Midwest.

But Zika is not the only disease that mosquitoes can carry. Other threats include West Nile virus, dengue fever and various types of encephalitis