FRIDAY, June 12, 2020 — The Asian tiger mosquito — which can spread diseases such as chikungunya or dengue fever — has become more common across Illinois in recent decades, a new study finds.
This species of mosquito originated in the forests of southeast Asia, but arrived in Texas around 1985 and spread to other states.
“The global trade in used tires facilitates the spread of the mosquito,” explained study co-leader Chris Stone, a medical entomologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey.
“The eggs get stuck to the walls of the tires and can survive even in dry conditions. Tires are also great at retaining rainwater, which is perfect for the larvae to develop in,” Stone explained in a news release from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
He and his colleagues examined how the mosquitoes were able to spread across the state, despite cold winters.
“We looked at historical records to see where the mosquito has been observed in the state. We then compared that information to the winter temperatures in different counties,” said study co-leader Rebecca Smith, a professor of pathobiology at UIUC.
“Winters are fairly warm in cities like Chicago because of all the roads and concrete. There are a lot of places like sewers and subways where these mosquitoes can live in the winter,” Smith said.
Repeated introductions from neighboring counties also contributed to the spread of the Asian tiger mosquito, the study found.
Genetic data showed a “surprising diversity” among Asian tiger mosquitoes in Illinois, according to Stone.
“Some were from the Texas population, but a few had previously been found only in Japan. This observation supports the idea that we see multiple introductions of these mosquitoes from different places,” he said.
“The ability of the Asian tiger mosquito to establish itself in Illinois could be problematic from a public health perspective,” Smith said. “Although it is not as bad as the yellow fever mosquito, it has the potential to introduce diseases.”
The findings were published recently in the Journal of Medical Entomology.
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Posted: June 2020