Researcher says mosquitos, larger than a dime and packing a painful bite, could invade soon

Apr 05, 2013 by Katy Hennig

With plenty of news reports talking about giant mosquitos invading Florida, Deby Cassill, a biologist at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, said it's just a matter of time before the "gallinipper" or flying, "hairy legged-zebra" take the stage.

"So we've got this huge potential with all of these eggs that were laid during Tropical Storm Debbie, the next storm coming in that wets that surface, we're going to have a huge of this giant mosquito," said Cassill.

The American Giant Mosquito or Psorophora ciliata are known as floodwater mosquitoes because they lay their eggs in low-lying areas with damp soil and grassy overgrowth. When these areas flood following a , large numbers of adult mosquitoes will hatch.

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Credit: Katy Hennig | USF News

They have been around for centuries and are notorious for inflicting a painful bite. It is only the females that attack. And they do it during both the day and night – in stark contrast to the typical dusk and dawn flights of smaller species of mosquitoes.

According to Cassill, the animal originates near the area of the delta and with heavy rains during previous , migrated over to Florida.

"They've been called the hairy-legged zebra of the mosquito world and I think that they are not as big as a quarter. But their legs are long enough and their bodies are long enough to span a dime and in the mosquito world, that's a big animal, kind of like a dinosaur or a large vampire floating around and going after us."

The bite from these mosquitos feels more intense then that of the smaller types because the giants have saw-like mouthparts that inject saliva and create intense pain when extracting the jaw after the bite.

Cassill said the critters do not carry disease, but they consume the larvae of other types of disease-carrying mosquitos. And, they don't move around that fast.

"What they go after actually is they have carbon dioxide or CO2 detectors and when they smell the breath of humans or the breath of cattle or the breath of live stock, that is one of the long distance detectors. When they are close enough, they use their vision. Then after that they have little heat detectors and they'll go for the warm spots along the throat, behind the knees, sometimes behind the neck and zero in and poke that long jaw into our bodies."

According to Cassill, the best protection from the American Giant Mosquito is an old technology.

"I think just be aware of it, have your fly swatter or mosquito swatter. I mean somebody ought to have a giant mosquito swatter in place by then."

Ultimately, they are among certain pests that we may just have to coexist with, she said, if we want to live in Florida.

"Other than that there is not much we can do. There is no way that we can rid ourselves of all pests. Part of it is we live in paradise, there is a small cost and the American Giant Mosquito may be that cost, for a short time. "

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Claudius
2.5 / 5 (8) Apr 05, 2013
According to Cassill, the animal originates near the area of the Mississippi river delta and with heavy rains during previous tropical storms, migrated over to Florida.


It could be that they migrated down to the Mississippi river delta from Minnesota, where the mosquito is the unofficial state bird.
Claudius
1.8 / 5 (5) Apr 05, 2013
"Fair insect! that, with threadlike legs spread out,
And blood-extracting bill and filmy wing,
Dost murmur, as thou slowly sail'st about,
In pitiless ears full many a plaintive thing,
And tell how little our large veins would bleed,
Would we but yield them to thy bitter need."

-William Cullen Bryant
Maggnus
not rated yet Apr 05, 2013
Lol Claudius! In Manatoba, it's said that one must be very careful when wandering outdoors, as a group of them will pick you up and carry you off to their nest.
Sinister1811
1 / 5 (4) Apr 05, 2013
The stuff of nightmares. Forget about using bug spray - I'd be using a flamethrower.
alfie_null
5 / 5 (2) Apr 06, 2013
Cassill said the critters do not carry disease, but they consume the larvae of other types of disease-carrying mosquitos. And, they don't move around that fast.

Given the serious diseases carried by other species of mosquitoes (malaria, yellow fever, dengue, encephalitis, etc.), if these help control other species, I'd reluctantly prefer to have them around.
Whydening Gyre
3 / 5 (6) Apr 06, 2013
The article stated they do not carry the usual plethora of mosquito-born diseases. I say - it's only a matter of time. Evolution is funny that way.