Get your bug spray ready, New Jersey: An aggressive blood-sucking bug known as the Asian tiger mosquito is forecasted to hit the East Coast location this summer, and it's feared that the menacing insect will spread diseases throughout the state.
The bug (scientific name: “Aedes albopictus” or “albo"), found in about 26 states and first discovered in New Jersey in 1995, is expected to show up there in large numbers this summer. While other mosquitoes do the majority of their blood-sucking after sundown, tiger mosquitoes typically attack during daylight hours -- so at least they're a little easier to see. Tiger mosquitoes can be identified by their black-and-white-striped legs and body markings. They seem to favor human targets but also go after dogs, cats and birds. And they're particularly worrisome because of their disease-spreading ability.
According to a report from ABC News, Jersey officials are concerned about the possible swarm. “[The tiger mosquito is] a more efficient disease vector, especially for West Nile virus,” said Eric Green, mosquito control officer for Passaic County, N.J. “It bites in the daytime and could put more people at risk,” he said.
This type of mosquito was discovered in the state in the mid-'90s, first found in Monmouth County less than 50 miles from Trenton, and then seen in areas to the north. According to Green, the bug is nearly impossible to remove. “[They] are the worst, nuisance-wise,” he said. “They are adapting to our climate. They are here to stay.” Claudia O’Malley, a biologist for the state’s mosquito control division, agreed, said ridding the state of the potentially deadly bugs is a large undertaking. “It is impossible to control without concerted efforts by homeowners in eliminating the breeding habitat,” she said.
While West Nile is the disease New Jersey officials are most concerned about being spread, other viral diseases such as dengue fever, eastern equine encephalitis and chikungunya fever can also be spread by the tiger mosquito.
Despite reports that tiger mosquitos are here to stay, some efforts can be made to keep them away or reduce their effects, most importantly discarding standing water, where the bugs lay and hatch their young, and reporting issues with infested or potentially dangerous water to the municipal or county health department.