MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Officials from Miami-Dade County confirmed Tuesday that a new invasive mosquito species called Aedes scapularis has established a presence in the area.
Researchers say it has also turned up in Broward County.
“The reporting of the Aedes scapularis can be of great medical and veterinary importance, as these mosquitoes are vectors of disease such as yellow fever, Venezuelan equine encephalitis and dog heartworm,” Research Director Chalmers Vasquez said in a statement. “This also highlights the importance of South Florida as the point of entry of invasive species that might eventually lead to outbreaks of mosquito-transmitted diseases in our population.”
The Aedes scapularis mosquito was previously only known in Florida from three specimens collected in the Florida Keys in 1945.
Experts say it is found in much of tropical America, from central South America to northern Mexico and extreme southern Texas, as well as a few Caribbean islands.
The Miami-Dade County Mosquito Control and Habitat Management Division monitors more than 200 mosquito traps set throughout the area. Samples are retrieved from those traps on a weekly basis.
“A team of lab technicians and biologists subsequently works to count, sort and identify (ID) the species retrieved,” a news release from the county stated. “The surveillance team, led by Research Director Chalmers Vasquez, and Biologist Johana Medina, worked with the University of Florida’s Florida Medical Entomology Lab (FMEL) scientist Dr. Lawrence Reeves to ID the out-of-area nuisance.”
Experts say the finding of the new species in South Florida shows that the mosquito population is dynamic.
Florida is currently home to both native and invasive mosquito species. The Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, which are both vectors of Zika virus, are often considered the most serious threats by experts.