Aedes albopictus, or the “Asian tiger mosquito,” has been rapidly expanding its invasive habitat range in the United States since the species was first documented in the country back in 1985. The first Asian tiger mosquito (ATM) specimens found in the US were collected from a tire dump near Houston, and the following decade saw these mosquitoes spread to 25 states. ATMs were first found in Massachusetts in 2000, but it wasn’t until 2011 that pest control professionals, entomologists and public health officials began to worry about this species’ growing abundance in many urban and suburban areas in the state. Today, ATMs can be found in most urban and suburban areas of Massachusetts, but they are not yet abundant in most northern areas of the state. However, experts believe that these dangerous airborne pests may soon become one of the most abundant disease-carrying mosquito species throughout the entire state unless mosquito-abatement officials take prompt action to prevent their further spread.

The East Middlesex Mosquito Control Project carried out the first aerial insecticide mosquito control operations last April. Bacteria that kill the larvae of disease-carrying mosquito species were dropped onto more than a dozen marshland areas from helicopters. Not long ago, Governor Charlie Baker introduced a bill to the state legislature that would grant the executive full authority to carry out aerial mosquito control operations in marshland and roadside areas throughout the state without seeking approval from local governments. The Governor introduced the bill in response to the eastern equine encephalitis outbreak that infected 12 Massachusetts residents last year, three of whom ultimately died as a result of the mosquito-borne disease. At the moment, the disease-carrying mosquito species inhabiting Massachusetts transmit only the West Nile virus and EEE, but the disease threat posed by mosquitoes in the state would worsen dramatically if the AST becomes established throughout the north. The AST is known for transmitting eastern equine encephalitis, West Nile, dengue, Zika, La Crosse encephalitis, and chikungunya, and the Bristol County entomologist has stated that this species can adapt to carry just about anything.

Have you sustained any mosquito bites yet this year?