RUMFORD — With the arrival of more summer-like weather, rising heat levels are ramping up
populations of Maine’s 40 or more species of mosquitoes.

But look at the bright side: Less
than half of them bite and we don’t have to worry about the so-called “bad boys” of the mosquito
world — the invasive Asian tiger mosquito.

“We don’t have any evidence right now
that says they’re up here,” said Chuck Lubelczyk, field biologist with
the Maine Medical Center Research Institute Vector-Borne Disease Lab.

“You could have the eggs or larvae in
a container that might move around somewhere and get up here and the
mosquitoes could hatch, so there is a possibility, but Maine is going
to be too cold for them to reproduce,” Lubelczyk said Thursday.

The Asian tiger mosquito, which was
introduced into the United States in 1985 in tires imported from Japan, is a small, black mosquito with a white stripe running down the
center of its head and back and white bands on its legs.

I’ve
talked to folks down South who have these mosquitoes
around, and they said that they make your life absolutely miserable,
because these Asian tiger mosquitoes, where they are established, are
aggressive day-biters that make any type of outdoor activity
unattractive,” Lubelczyk said. 

Some
Maine mosquitoes are active day and night and some are only active at
night.

A
lot of it with mosquitoes, is how aggressive they are,” Lubelczyk
said. “In some areas, someone might walk from one end of the yard
to the other and what you might actually bump into is two batches of
different mosquitoes.

But
these aggressive ones, they will follow you if you walk slowly enough
or stay in your wake and try to catch up to you and stuff,” he
said. “Normally, most mosquitoes won’t travel too far from where
they emerge. They tend to be kind of home-bodies, if you will.”

Lubelczyk said that people in Maine who
think they’ve seen Asian tiger mosquitoes are likely seeing a similar-looking invasive Asian
mosquito known to the Vector-Borne Disease Lab as Japonicus. a
species known to breed in rock pools or still water pooled in tires.

To the naked eye, Asian
tiger mosquitoes could look very similar to the Japonicus, which occurs naturally in northern Asia and is
able to handle our climate pretty well, he said.

Maine
has state records of the presence of
Japonicus as
far north as Bangor, over to Monhegan Island and on down through York
County, so they’re pretty well-established
, Lubelczyk
said. They are fairly aggressive
people-biters and are out in the daytime. It’s also known
to transmit West Nile virus.

But
our West Nile activity tends to be a little lower here in Maine, so
there really hasn’t been much of an issue with that this year,”
Lubelczyk said.

Mosquito
population growth hasn’t been an issue, either, until now.

The
warmth we’ve had in the last couple of weeks has really kicked the
numbers up,” Lubelczyk said. “There are a lot more out there
right now. So it started late, but it’s here.”

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The mosquito pictured here in this 2005 photograph from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was until recently known as
Aedes japonicus, and is now labeled Ochlerotatus japonicus. This particular
specimen was a member of the Notre Dame colony. Oc. japonicus was initially
collected in the United States in New York and New Jersey in 1998.


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