THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE TIGER MOSQUITO
Mike Blower, Secretary U3A Denia
1. What is the tiger mosquito?
It is a species of mosquito (Aedes albopictus) native to the large tropical jungles of Southeast Asia, which since 2004 has been detected in Catalonia and sporadically in Valencia. In our environment it is an urban mosquito taking advantage of stagnant water for reproduction.
2. Why do we care about its presence?
The health significance of this species is the possibility of it being a potential transmitter of over 22 infectious diseases, some viral, like dengue fever or chikungunya. While so far this possibility is very low in Spain, we need to take precautions. It is also a species that produces multiple bites which can be very annoying for the sting they produce.
3. How do I recognise the mosquito?
It is rather small, about 5 mm (2 to 10 mm) long with black and white stripes on head, body and legs.
4. Where does she lay her eggs?
Females lay about 80 eggs every 5-6 days in the walls of small containers so when water levels rise and flood the larvae, it hatches them. These eggs are as small as a speck of dust, so, at a glance, they go unnoticed.
5. During which months is there more mosquito activity? Past experience indicates the busiest period is between May and November, both included. But, as it is weather dependent, it is considered variable, because in times of low temperatures, the hibernating eggs just await suitable conditions for hatching.
6. Can I do something to avoid their presence?
Removing their breeding grounds is VITAL!
First, it is important to avoid their reproduction near our homes. For this we need to take some precautions:
· Cover or empty any containers that can hold water, such as buckets, toys, vases, ashtrays, etc.
· Empty rain water containers if possible.
· Cover those containers which cannot be emptied with thick mosquito net or fabric.
· Drain the dishes under plant pots when water accumulates.
· Change the water often in water dishes of domestic animals and plants living in water.
· Avoid standing water in drainage areas or channels, eliminating any obstruction to the flow of water.
· Cover holes and depressions (pools) where water can accumulate outside.
· Empty plastic paddling pools or similar every three or four days, or take them out of use when not needed.
· Monitor small ponds: empty weekly if possible, or cover them with mosquito netting.
· Keep swimming pools covered when not in use.
· Ensure that wells, cisterns, tanks or water barrels are properly covered.
· Cover holes in trunks and branches of trees, filling with earth/sand so that no water accumulates in them.
7. What time do tiger mosquitoes usually bite?
Although they can strike at any time of day, they have a clear preference and are more active when the sun rises or sets.
8. Where do they usually bite?
Any area of the body can be affected, but the tiger mosquito prefers to be near the ground, so the legs are the most frequently affected area.
9. Are the bites annoying?
In general, at the time of the bite it is usually unnoticed; the subsequent reaction is what usually causes discomfort: raising of the skin, redness, itching and discomfort that can last several days. This process is the body’s reaction to the saliva injected by the mosquito itself.
10. Why do they not bite everybody?
Mosquitoes are basically guided by odours. Some compounds emitted by the skin can be more attractive than others and the reactions can vary between people. Actually, all people may be susceptible to biting, but some do not realize because they do not develop any reaction.
11. How should I protect myself from the tiger mosquito?
Usually they find and bite outside, so it is worth recalling again the measures we have recommended to prevent outbreaks of breeding larvae.
In addition, to reduce its presence within the house, we can put mosquito netting on the windows and electric insecticide dispensers. Household insecticides effective against mosquitoes are also effective against the tiger mosquito, but their use outside is less efficient. There is no evidence of the effectiveness of ultrasonic devices.
It is sensible to leave less exposed skin: avoid shorts or short skirts, and wear long sleeves and pants that are tight at the ankles. The colour of the clothes does not seem to exert any influence on the protection, but the thickness of the fabric used does.
Mosquito-repellent lotions are also effective against the tiger mosquito. DEET and Icaridin at or above concentrations of 20% are the most suitable alternatives to avoid mosquito bites; however, consult with your doctor or pharmacist. When using these one should consider the following precautions:
· Use insect repellent externally and always comply with the instructions, especially the number of daily applications permitted.
· Do not apply to children younger than two years. In older children, avoid the application on their faces and do not apply it to their hands as children often put them in their mouths and rub their eyes.
· It is not advisable to apply on clothing.
· When the repellent is no longer needed, it should be washed from the skin with soap and water.
· If any reaction occurs in the skin wash the area with soap and water and seek a healthcare professional’s advice.
12. How should I deal with a Tiger Mosquito bite?
As with any other bite, the first thing you should do is wash with soap and water and disinfect the area of the bite. If symptoms persist, consult your doctor.