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AMES, IOWA — Temperatures are warming back up which means before long, mosquito eggs that survived the winter will begin to hatch. This year some Iowans may notice they’re swatting at a different type of mosquito.

The Asian Tiger mosquito is scientifically known as Aedes Albopictus. They’ve been in the United States for over 30 years, but they’ve only recently been found in three Iowa counties. Iowa State Entomology professor, Ryan Smith says that many scientists didn’t think this specific mosquito would be found in Iowa. “It was originally thought that the temperature, at least that we had during the winter was going to be a significant barrier. What we ultimately saw was that these mosquitoes have been able to establish themselves and survive the winter. And so that maybe isn’t the barrier that we once thought it was,” said Smith.

This species of mosquito originates from Southeast Asia, but they made their way to the U.S. first time during the 1980s. Since mosquitoes only travel about a quarter of a mile throughout their entire life, they needed help to make it over 8,000 miles. A shipment of tires made this possible. Tires serve as the perfect breeding ground for adult mosquitoes. Smith said, “A tire can get a little bit of water. And that’s enough to surface an environment for these eggs to hatch and for these larvae to grow and develop into adult mosquitoes.”

Over the span of five years, Iowa State entomologists set up trapping devices in around 30 Iowa counties. They were able to detect growing populations of the Asian Tiger mosquito in Lee and Des Moines county in southeast Iowa and central Iowa’s Polk county.

You may be able to identify this specific type of mosquito based on its unique characteristics. Smith even described them as “pretty”. “This is a black mosquito that has white bands on its legs and its abdomen. And very distinctively has a single white racing stripe kind of along its back,” said Smith.

As greenhouse gas emissions continue to warm our planet, the season in which mosquitoes can migrate and transmit disease is longer. The Asian Tiger mosquito can transmit dengue, chikungunya, and zika virus although transmission is rare and complicated. Because these viruses are not ones that are prevalent in the United States, the best chance of contracting them would be by traveling.

A mosquito is infected when it bites a person who is already infected. That same mosquito would then transmit the virus by biting a second person. If that second person travels to an area where Asian Tiger mosquitoes are established, the mosquitoes could bite this infected person and inevitably spread the virus to other humans.

Sarah Ekstrand with the Iowa Department of Public Health said, “In 2020, only four Zika virus cases were detected among travelers returning to the US and none of these cases were in Iowa. There were no locally transmitted cases of Zika virus in the US in 2020.”

“West Nile Virus remains the biggest threat to Iowans. Public health professionals recommend that all Iowans continue to take measures to prevent mosquito bites. The primary way to prevent them is by using insect repellant, eliminating standing water around the home, and avoiding being outdoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active,” said Ekstrand.