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Florida Keys News
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Asian mosquito returns to Keys

The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District have launched an all-out assault on a bloodthirsty foe that has invaded the Keys -- again.

Mosquito Control inspectors first spotted the aedes albopictus, or Asian tiger mosquito, on Stock Island in late February. The species was found in a commercial area near Fifth Street on the south side of Stock Island, said district Operations Director Andrea Leal.

While the species is not as much a public threat as the primary Keys dengue carrier, aedes aegypti, it is an aggressive -- and annoying -- and the district doesn't want it to get a foothold in the Keys.

The agency has ramped up it efforts significantly, and has begun "carpet bombing" Stock Island, said Executive Director Michael Doyle.

The agency dispatched all of its available Lower Keys field inspectors, armed with "backpack" fogging machines, to fight the species on the island. They are also using a "barrier spray," a pesticide liquid sprayed through an airbrush-like device that coats the inside of sheds and the outsides and underbellies of homes, Doyle said.

"This is an all-out assault," he said.

Doyle said he is also considering using technology called "thermal fogging," which he referred to as "old school fogging." The agency would use chemicals in its fog trucks that would produce a "thick white cloud that drifts," he said.

"It looks more scary than it is," he added.

However, Doyle wants more information, and is in discussions with the Navy Entomology Center of Excellence" in Jacksonville, which uses the technology at bases across the world, Doyle said. Doyle is hoping the Entomology Center of Excellence can have some one come to the Keys to train his personnel on the technology.

"It can be very labor intensive," Doyle said.

The Asian tiger mosquito invaded Big Pine Key and Key Largo three years ago, and Stock Island in early 2000s, Doyle said.

The species is "more irritating than aedes aegypti," a common species found in the Keys, as it will bite anything with blood, Doyle said. However, it is not a good carrier of dengue fever, a tropical virus that can be fatal. It does have the potential to carry the Dengue virus, but because it bites so many different animals it would not likely carry it, Doyle said.

The insect is called a tiger mosquito because its striped appearance. The mosquito has black and white striped legs and small black and white striped body. It is native to the tropical and subtropical areas of Southeast Asia. In the past couple of decades, the species spread throughout the world through shipping. The mosquito typically flies and feeds in the daytime.

tohara@keysnews.com

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