A tiny invader that's driving people indoors

The Asian tiger mosquito is yet another invasive species that has taken hold in the United States. It arrived here in 1985 in a shipment of tires imported from Asia.  This little mosquito is an aggressive human biter capable of transmitting diseases. But its greatest impact in the U.S., so far, is the way it is profoundly changing peoples’ relationships with the outdoors.

 

“One of the things we’re finding in our research when we go into cities that have infestations of this species is that people are really changing their behavior because of it.”

Dr. Shannon LaDeau, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute, is the principal investigator on a National Science Foundation grant to study these mosquitoes.

“So it bites humans during the day unlike many other species of mosquitoes that we come in contact with.  And when you see one, you tend to see a swarm.  And so people are being bit by swarms of mosquitoes during the day when they don’t expect it, and it really is changing peoples’ tolerance for gardening in their backyard.  We are hearing people say they don’t want to go out for walks.  They don’t want to go out and barbecue in the afternoon.  So it’s potentially having problematic consequences for peoples’ outdoor activities.”

At a time when we are struggling to get people outdoors for healthy exercise and connection with nature, this is a terrible development.

The Asian tiger mosquito is well established in Baltimore, where LaDeau’s research is centered, but has been found as far north as Westchester County, New York. One of the goals of LaDeau’s project is to learn how and where its eggs survive the winters, so that we can develop strategies to interrupt the mosquito’s reproductive cycle.

Produced in collaboration with WAMC Northeast Public Radio, this podcast originally aired on May 13, 2013. To access a full archive of Earth Wise podcasts, visit: www.earthwiseradio.org.

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