We don’t realize it, but most of us raise mosquitoes, and some are better at it than others – in buckets, old tires, tin cans, and all kinds of little breeding ponds around the yard. And they love us so much, they want to come home with us. I’m an expert at raising these guys.
There are at least six species of blood-sucking mosquitoes found in Hawaii and all can feed on man. They include the Southern House mosquito Culex quinquefasciatus, the Asian Tiger mosquito Aedes albopictus, the Yellow Fever mosquito Aedes aegypti, the Inland Floodwater mosquito Aedes vexans nocturnus ,the Japanese or Rockpool mosquito Aedes japonicus, and the Pineapple Lily Mosquito Wyeomyia mitchelli. Knowing that alone is enough to make you start scratching. Presently, the Yellow Fever Mosquito and the Japanese or Rockpond Mosquito are only found on Hawai`i Island.
Each species has its own unique set of habits, and can be further broken down into night feeders and day feeders. The day trippers include the Asian Tiger mosquito, which has white stripes on its body, and feed almost exclusively on mammals. It doesn’t fly far and tends to stay nearby in pools of water such as old tires, branches in banana trees, and in tin cans. The Pineapple Lily mosquito breeds in tiny pools of water in house or garden plants like bromeliads and other water-holding plants, but also likes to bite at dusk.
The night biters, and the nemesis of a good night’s sleep, include the Southern house mosquito, the most common human night-biter. It’s has a pale brown body and also feeds on birds, potentially spreading avian malaria and bird pox, but also feeds on a wide range of mammals. It will fly three miles to feed on you and prefers to lay eggs in ground water with organic matter. The other is the Inland Floodwater Mosquito and it feeds only on mammals, with horses and cows being the predominant hosts. It can fly as far as 20 miles for a meal and its eggs can survive in dry mud or soil and hatch after the next rain. If one doesn’t get you, the other one will.
Mosquitoes are a major threat to our existence in the tropics, not because of their biting or feeding on our blood, but because they have the potential to transfer life-threatening diseases to us. West Nile virus, encephalitis, yellow fever, dengue, malaria, and filariasis – possibly the worst invasive species to reach our shores. Fortunately, Hawaii has none of the human diseases at present – I reiterate, at present – but we definitely have the environment for them to thrive if they ever get here. Mosquitoes also spread heart or filarial worms in dogs, a major threat to the lifespan of a dog in Hawaii.
With global warming, mosquitoes will continue to be a major threat to our existence in Hawaii. Last month for example, the military was investigating the existence of the malaria mosquito Anopheles, found near Tripler Hospital, but the samples were lost in the mail on their way to England for identification.
Today, many methods of control are employed to keep mosquito populations down. The introduction of mosquito-eating fish such as guppies to fresh bodies of water, specific forms of naturally-occurring bacteria called Bacillus thurengiensis (BT) introduced to water holes that sicken and kill only the mosquito, ointments applied to our bodies, and chemical sprays. I believe mosquito nets are going to make a comeback. For more information on mosquitoes, you can download a publication at http://hawaii.gov/health/environmental/vector/mosquitoflyer.pdf