Asian Tiger Mosquito Invades EU
Warnings are being made to holiday makers this summer as sightings of the deadly Tiger Mosquito have become increasingly common across many parts of Europe.
Recognisable by its distinctive black and white striped body, the Aedes Albopictus, otherwise known as the Tiger Mosquito, is a dangerous species, carrying a range of deadly diseases including Zika, West Nile virus, Chikungunya, Dengue, Yellow Fever virus and dirofilarial worms. It is now listed as one of the top 100 invasive species by the Invasive Species Specialist Group (Global Invasive Species Database, 2019).
Originally from Southeast Asia, the Tiger Mosquito has undergone rapid global expansion. The insect is thought to have spread to Europe via the transportation of goods and increased international travel. Populations of the deadly species have spread at an alarming rate and reports of the species are being recorded in an increasing number of European countries including France, Switzerland, Belgium, Albania, Greece, Spain, Germany and Italy, with the latter recorded as having the highest number of the mosquito (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, 2016).
Currentlyin France, 66 départements are now affected by the species, 51 ofthem being in red alert’, 9 more than in 2018 (French Ministry of Health,2019). Research suggests that populations of the Tiger Mosquito havespread along the Mediterranean Basin, as they’ve been captured in the UK duringthe last decade, mainly in Kent. Though this summer there is a risk theywill remain (Bent, 2019).
Anumber of factors contribute to the increasing prevalence of the TigerMosquito. Global warming has a large part to play. Warmer, wetterweather provides perfect breeding conditions while highertemperatures also speed up the development of the larvae, contributing tohigher numbers of adult populations. Poor surveillance andineffective control methods are also to blame for the rise in numbers thisyear. Moreover, the TigerMosquito’s adaptability means that they are able to survive incolder conditions, enabling further expansion to new areas.
Thespecies is particularly challenging to control due to thefemale’s breeding patterns. Like many other mosquitoes, they laytheir eggs in water-filled natural or artificial containers meaning thatthey have huge habitat flexibility. Tree cavities, old tires or water-filledbuckets are common places for the female mosquito to lay her eggs.She can even lay them in a bottle top with just a few millimetres ofrainwater. Therefore, they are increasingly difficult to control and areoften found in residential areas, where a bloodmeal is never far away!
Eggsare laid towards the end of the summer months as the temperature begins to dropand daylight hours reduce. The eggs lie dormant before hatching at the end ofwinter. The survival of the eggs throughout the cold season allows the TigerMosquito to survive in climates with harsher winter conditions, such as NorthAmerica and many European countries, leading to its increasedpopulations.
Furthermore,unlike most other species of mosquito, the Tiger Mosquito bites during theday. This makes traditional methods of bite prevention, such as covering upwhile outside at dawn and dusk, ineffective. To limit therisk of attracting these mosquitoes, it is recommended to remove standing waterfrom birdbaths, blocked guttering, water butts and wheelbarrows.
Whilethe significance of the spread of the Tiger Mosquito in regardto disease transmission across Europe is still unknown, continuedsurveillance and control of the species is of upmost importanceconsidering the Tiger Mosquito’s ability to adapt to new environmentsand its increased prevalence acrossnearly all of Europe.
Global InvasiveSpecies Database (2019). Species profile: Aedes albopictus. [Online] Available at: http://www.iucngisd.org/gisd/species.php?sc=109. [Accessed 25July 2019].
European Centrefor Disease Prevention and Control (2016). Aedes albopictus – Factsheet forexperts. [Online] Available at: https://ecdc.europa.eu/en/disease-vectors/facts/mosquito-factsheets/aedes-albopictus. [Accessed 25 July 2019].
FrenchMinistry of Health (2019). ‘The Tiger Mosquito returns to France: 51départements on red alert, InstitutPasteur.Available at: https://www.pasteur.fr/en/research-journal/news/tiger-mosquito-returns-france-51-departements-red-alert. [Accessed 25 July 2019].
Lloyd Bent (2019). ‘Disease-carryingAsian Tiger Mosquitoes could invade the UK this summer, warn experts’. iNews, May 1st 2019. Available at:https://inews.co.uk/news/health/asian-tiger-mosquitoes-uk-warning-summer-2019-disease-carrying/. [Accessed on 25 July 2019].
European Centre for Disease Preventionand Control and European Food Safety Authority. Mosquito maps [internet].Stockholm: ECDC; 2019. Available from:
https://ecdc.europa.eu/en/publications-data/aedes-albopictus-current-known-distribution-january-2019 [Accessed on 25th July 2019].