In a worrying development, a new mosquito species has been discovered in Florida that could potentially transmit mosquito-borne diseases. The Culex lactator mosquito, which is found in Central and northern South America, has already established a permanent home in at least three counties in the state.
Scientists at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences discovered the species in Miami-Dade County in 2018 while they were looking for other nonnative mosquitoes. They recently published their findings in the Journal of Medical Entomology.
Difficult to Predict the Implications
The Culex group of mosquitoes includes important species that transmit the West Nile and St. Louis encephalitis viruses. While it is too early to say whether Culex lactator will exacerbate these challenges, the implications are difficult to predict since not all mosquito species are equally capable of transmitting a particular virus or other pathogen.
Lawrence Reeves, lead author of the study and an assistant professor and mosquito biologist at the university’s research center in Vero Beach, expressed concern that there has not been enough research on the species and their potential disease risk. He also pointed out that Florida already has about 90 mosquito species, and this number is growing as new mosquito species are introduced to the state from other parts of the world.
Role of Climate Change
The introduction of new mosquito species to Florida is a growing concern, as the state’s climate becomes more conducive to tropical mosquito species. According to Reeves, climate change may improve the chances of tropical mosquito species becoming established once they make it to Florida if the state becomes warmer. Increasing storm frequency and intensity could also help blow in more mosquitoes from the Caribbean, Central America, and elsewhere.
The discovery of Culex lactator in Florida is yet another example of the threat posed by nonnative mosquitoes. Florida’s greatest mosquito-related challenges have arisen from nonnative mosquitoes, and it is difficult to anticipate what to expect when we know so little about a mosquito species.
In conclusion, the discovery of the Culex lactator mosquito species in Florida is a cause for concern, as it has the potential to transmit mosquito-borne diseases. With the number of mosquito species in Florida already high and growing, scientists must carry out more research to better understand the risks associated with new mosquito species. It is also vital that measures are put in place to prevent the introduction of new mosquito species to the state, as the consequences could be severe.