March 25th, 2013 by James Ayre
Giant mosquitos will likely be “invading” Florida in large numbers this summer, researchers say. The mosquitos in question, Gallinipper mosquitos, are roughly the size of a quarter (some larger), and possess a large proboscis that they use for “biting”. The large uptick in their numbers is expected primarily as a result of the significant flooding that occurred in the state last year during Tropical Storm Debby.
Gallinpper mosquitos, also known as Psorophora ciliata, usually lay their eggs in the dirt near the shores of ponds that overflow when heavy rains come. When there are large flood events, like Tropical Storm Debby, the mosquitos flourish and lay large numbers of eggs. All that is needed for a particularly large population boom now, is a decent ground-soaking rain to hatch the eggs.
Some reports have compared these giant Mosquitos to “small birds” and compared being bitten by them to “being knifed”. This is a bit of an exaggeration, as Phil Kaufman, an entomologist at the University of Florida, noted to the Huffington Post: “Don’t believe everything you read. There is a lot of misinformation out there. These are normal mosquitoes that show up every year; some parts of the state may experience higher than normal numbers.”
“It’s true that after Debby the gallinippers flourished, and looking to the future laid plenty of eggs to repopulate this summer. And the gallinipper is indeed significantly larger than the typical variety of blood-sucker seen around these parts,” he continued. “The bite is painful because it’s bigger. The itching afterward is no different than any other mosquito. They are annoying, but that’s about it.”
He noted that how many will end up hatching will be dependent upon how rainy this summer ends up being. If there are large flooding events this year then the population could indeed get quite large… It’s also worth noting that the eggs can remain dormant for multiple years, if they don’t hatch this year they may in future years.
In response to the “invasion” terminology, Kaufman noted that “they are a native species which has (likely) been here longer than humans have.”
An interesting aside is that the large biting-mosquitos are all females, the males, which are smaller than the females, typically only consume nectar from flowers.
It’s worth noting that while these mosquitos are significantly larger than the mosquitos that most people are familiar with, they are actually a fair bit less dangerous than many other species, as they are not generally carriers of the malaria parasite. Many researchers have argued that mosquitos are the most dangerous animals on the Earth, because of their relationship with the malaria parasite. Malaria is a significant killer of humans and many other animals. Roughly 2000-3000 people die from the disease everyday. It was estimated that in 2010 1.24 million people died from malaria. That number is actually considerably lower than the average in previous centuries as numbers have declined somewhat since then as a result of improved treatment options and availability. Many recent reports have stated that as temperatures increase (along with storms and flooding events), mosquitos, along with the malaria parasites that many of them carry, will likely see a boom in their population and range. Infection rates are expected to climb…
In Florida, the increasingly powerful storms expected with future climate change, and their associated flooding events, will likely make this an increasingly common event. The spread of common human disease vectors, such as mosquitos, is expected to be one of the most significant global effects of climate change, along with the increased likelihood of pandemics.
Image Credit: University of Florida News
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