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Asian tiger mosquito facts for kids

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Asian tiger mosquito
Female at the start of feeding
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Diptera
Family: Culicidae
Subfamily: Culicinae
Genus: Aedes
Subgenus: Stegomyia
Species: A. albopictus
Binomial name
Aedes albopictus
(Skuse, 1894)
Dark blue: Native range
Dark green: introduced (as of December 2007)
Synonyms

Culex albopictus Skuse, 1894

The Asian tiger mosquito, or forest day mosquito is a kind of mosquito that is native to tropical and subtropical South-East Asia. It has black and white striped legs, and small black and white striped body. The Asian tiger mosquito is about 2 to 10 mm long. The males are about 20% smaller than the females.

In the last few decades, the species has spread to many other countries, mainly through the transport of goods. Many communities see this species as a pest. Unlike other mosquitos, the Asian tiger mosquito associates with humans. Other mosquitos tend to live in wetlands. The Asian tiger mosquito is also active during the day, while most other mosquitos are only active during dusk and dawn.

The Asian tiger mosquito can spread several diseases, such as West Nile virus, Yellow fever virus, St. Louis encephalitis, dengue fever, and Chikungunya fever.

Characteristics

CDC-Gathany-Aedes-albopictus-1
Aedes albopictus

The Asian tiger mosquito is about 2 to 10 mm length with a striking white and black pattern. The variation of the body size in adult mosquitoes depends on the density of the larval population and food supply within the breeding water. Since these circumstances are seldom optimal, the average body size of adult mosquitoes is considerably smaller than 10 mm. For example, the average length of the abdomen was calculated to be 2.63 mm, the wings 2.7 mm, and the proboscis 1.88 mm.

The males are roughly 20% smaller than the females, but they are morphologically very similar. However, as in all mosquito species, the antennae of the males in comparison to the females are noticeably bushier and contain auditory receptors to detect the characteristic whine of the female. The maxillary palps of the males are also longer than their proboscis, whereas the females’ maxillary palps are much shorter. (This is typical for the males of the Culicinae.) In addition, the tarsus of the hind legs of the males is more silvery. Tarsomere IV is roughly 75% silver in the males whereas the females’ is only about 60% silver.

The other characteristics do not differentiate between sexes. A single silvery-white line of tight scales begins between the eyes and continues down the dorsal side of the thorax. This characteristic marking is the easiest and surest way to identify the Asian tiger mosquito.

As with other members of the mosquito family, the female is equipped with an elongated proboscis that she uses to collect blood to feed her eggs. The Asian tiger mosquito has a rapid bite that allows it to escape most attempts by people to swat it. By contrast, the male member of the species primarily feeds on nectar.

The female lays her eggs near water, not directly into it as other mosquitoes do, but typically near a stagnant pool. However, any open container containing water will suffice for larvae development, even with less than an ounce (30 ml) of water. It can also breed in running water, so stagnant pools of water are not its only breeding sites. It is more likely to lay eggs in water sources near flowers than in water sources without flowers. It has a short flight range (less than 200 m), so breeding sites are likely to be close to where this mosquito is found.

Identifying tiger mosquitoes can seem easy with the above description, but many people mistakenly identify it. The best way to be sure is to compare the specimen with several approved pictures of the tiger mosquito.

Diet and host location

Aedes albopictus on human skin
Bloated female at the end of a meal

Like other mosquito species, only the females require a blood meal to develop their eggs. Apart from that, they feed on nectar and other sweet plant juices just as the males do. In regards to host location, carbon dioxide and organic substances produced from the host, humidity, and optical recognition play important roles.

The search for a host takes place in two phases. First, the mosquito exhibits a nonspecific searching behavior until it perceives host stimulants, whereupon it secondly takes a targeted approach. For catching tiger mosquitoes with special traps, carbon dioxide and a combination of chemicals that naturally occur in human skin (fatty acids, ammonia, and lactic acid) are the most attractive.

The Asian tiger mosquito particularly bites in forests during the day, so has been known as the forest day mosquito. Depending upon region and biotype, activity peaks differ, but for the most part, they rest during the morning and night hours. They search for their hosts inside and outside of human dwellings, but are particularly active outside. The size of the blood meal depends upon the size of the mosquito, but it is usually around 2 μl. Their bites are not necessarily painful, but they are more noticeable than those from other kinds of mosquitoes. Tiger mosquitoes generally tend to bite a human host more than once if they are able to.

Ae. albopictus also bites other mammals besides humans, as well as birds.

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