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How to spot the source of your pain before it bites

If it seems the mosquito population has exploded this year, there’s a very good chance it has. Recent record rainfalls resulted in large areas of standing water, while floodwaters revitalized the dormant-yet-viable eggs of some mosquito species.

So, that buzz in the air isn’t just from mosquitos. It’s probably also the sound of people complaining that this year’s mosquito crop is unbearable.

Aedes aegypti

This mosquito is of greatest concern to Florida residents. Also known as the Yellow Fever Mosquito, it’s also responsible for spreading Dengue Fever, Chikungunya, and Zika.

That’s quite a reputation for a bug that ranges in size from 1/8” to less than 1/4”. Behaviorally, it’s easy to identify A. aegypti. It likes to live close to populated areas and eggs can be laid in the smallest collection of stagnant water. The female is also a daytime feeder if outdoors; inside a house, all bets are off.

In addition to white bands on its legs and abdomen and dark wings, A. aegypti’s most distinguishing physical characteristic is the pattern of white scales on the top of its thorax, the segment between the head and the abdomen. It looks like a violin or lyre.

For gender, it’s all in the head

Now that you know the mosquito buzzing around you is A. aegypti, you’ll next want to verify its gender – because the female is the one that will do the biting. Generally speaking, the female is larger than the male, but there are a few characteristics that distinguish them from one another. You’ll need a microscope for this.

Emerging from the front of the head is the proboscis or mouth. On either side of this are palps, which the mosquito uses to detect odors. The female palps are tipped in silver or white.

Next to the palps are the antennae. The females are covered in short hairs, while the males are bushier.

Aedes albopictus

On first look, this mosquito – also known as the Asian Tiger Mosquito – looks very similar to A. aegypti. It’s dark in color, with dark wings and white bands on its hind legs and abdomen. Even the gender differences are similar. The female is larger, and the male has bushier antennae.

While A. albopictus is slightly larger than A. aegypti, the major difference can be seen along the top of the thorax. Instead of white scales in the shape of a violin, there is a white stripe down the middle of the thorax.

Despite the difference, A. albopictus is also a vector for Zika, Dengue, Chikungunya, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, and Yellow Fever. Although the female is not a picky feeder (she’s content to feed on humans or animals), the species is better able to tolerate cooler temperatures and so has a broader range.

Prevention is better than identification

In this modern-day worry of mosquito-borne illness, it might be a good idea to let the researchers do the identifying. Homeowners should spend their precious time creating an environment inhospitable to the pests, such as eliminating standing water and wearing long-sleeved clothing when outdoors during peak feeding times.

Another solution is to install an automatic misting system from Platinum Mosquito Protection. Our service can be customized and programmed to meet you and your family’s specific needs.

For a free onsite consultation, contact us today.

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