Aedes albopictus (common name: Asian tiger mosquito) is an invasive species of mosquito from Asia that arrived in Texas in the 1980s and spread widely in the southeastern USA. It now occupies virtually all but southern Florida and has displaced Aedes aeqypti (common name: yellow fever mosquito). Adult mosquitoes of both these species are black with white markings. Behavior of these two species is similar. Adult females of these mosquitoes lay their eggs glued at the waterline of small water containers (such as saucers under plant pots, scrap tires, empty cans, jars and bottles, water barrels, water dishes for pets, birdbaths, boats, and rarely bromeliad leaf axils). The eggs hatch when they are inundated by water (such as during rain or when the container is topped up). The larvae hatching from the eggs feed in the water and, when they are large enough, become pupae. Pupae are comma-shaped and do not feed – after a couple of days, adult mosquitoes emerge from them. The females fly off to find a blood meal, from you or your family or friends or neighbors. The male mosquitoes feed on plant nectar.
The problem is that both species are capable of transmitting dengue fever and chikungunya,and Zika viruses if they are infected. Please search Google for information on Zika virus. Your best source is CDC (Centers for Disease Control). They are diseases that you, your family and neighbors do not want. All it would take is for someone from your neighborhood to visit the Caribbean, return with an infection, be bitten by an Aedes albopictus mosquito from your yard that then bite someone else, and bingo, your neighborhood will be a focus of infection. Your local Mosquito Control District will likely send inspectors to your yard, and if Aedes albopictus adults or larvae or pupae are found, you will be in violation of Florida Statutes (1987. 386.041. Nuisances injurious to health). Your violation by producing these mosquitoes in your yard gives the Mosquito Control District various powers.
Until now, bites produced by Aedes albopictus mosquitoes in Florida were mainly just a nuisance. Now it is time to get serious by controlling these mosquitoes in your yard. Be prepared to show Mosquito Control District employees that your bromeliads are not producing these mosquitoes.
However, in central and southern Florida, the real owners of bromeliad leaf axils are two species of small mosquitoes called Wyeomyia that are native to Florida. A year-long survey in 4 cities (Daytona Beach, Vero Beach, Tampa, and Miami) in 1978-1979 showed that their eggs, larvae and pupae represent 99% of all immature mosquitoes in Billbergia pyramidalis leaf axils, with Aedes aegypti less than half of 1% (and Aedes albopictus not yet present). See http://journals.fcla.edu/flaent/article/view/58346/56025 This is a good thing because they outcompete Aedes larvae for nutrients. Wyeomyia adults bite people, but transmit no diseases to people. It is their feeding in bromeliad leaf axils that reduces Aedes.
In Alachua County, you may have Wyeomyia mosquito larvae in your bromeliads due to accepting bromeliads from people who have Wyeomyia. Your best option is to clean your bromeliads to remove nutrients.
Suggested control methods:
1) Sweeper nozzle on a garden hose. Weekly blasts from a hose thus fitted should wash out debris (including the food of mosquito larvae) from bromeliad axils and perhaps some mosquito larvae and pupae, too. Sweeper nozzles can be bought at garden stores.
2) Reduce nutrients to the mosquito larvae. Cut out dead flowers from Neoregelia. Do not allow lawn clippings into bromeliads.
If you have only Aedes albopictus, then control methods are the two items above, and also:
3) Methoprene. This is an insect juvenile hormone analog. It interferes with development of insect larvae so they die before they reach the adult stage. It does the same to immature crustaceans (shrimp, crab, lobster) but has no effect on vertebrate animals including people and pets. Buy Altosid (a trade name) methoprene mosquito granules and sprinkle them by hand into the water in your bromeliad axils. Their effect is supposed to last up to 30 days. You can order them online under the name Altosid methoprene mosquito granules. Read the directions.
4) Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis called Bti for short. This is a bacterium that kills larvae of aquatic flies (mosquitoes, black flies, and chironomids). This strain (israelensis) is specialized to aquatic fly larvae. Other strains are specialized to caterpillars of butterflies and moths and beetles. It is harmless to vertebrate animals including people and pets). You can buy this product under several trade names as Bayer Advanced Garden Mosquito Preventer as granules in 1lb plastic containers at garden stores or as Mosquito Bits (from Amazon.com). Follow directions: you need just a tiny amount per bromeliad.
5) Hydrogen peroxide. Dave Johnston, our speaker on 22 June, recounted that "I use 8 ounces of tech grad 37% hydrogen peroxide per 1000 gallons of water and recommend 1 tablespoon per gallon of CVS or Walgreens concentration. Anyone following the previous misquote may kill their plants."
Please try these methods and learn which one works best for you. The test is: How many black and white mosquitoes (Aedes albopictus or Aedes aegypti) bite you at (say) 6 pm a biting hour in the shade near your plants in the summertime. Could you demonstrate to a Mosquito Control District Inspector the absence of these mosquitoes after you begin routinely using one of these methods?
The general public has just discovered that bromeliad leaf axils may contain mosquito larvae. This has promoted hysteria in southern Florida because the general public has never heard of Wyeomyia mosquitoes. This in turn is causing vilification of bromeliads. Inspection teams at Miami Beach Botanical Garden found Wyeomyia mosquito larvae, but no Aedes larvae in bromeliads. The result was removal of all terrestrial bromeliads from the garden!
Gainesville Mosquito Control
For more information and additional photos:
Other areas of Alachua County do not have organized mosquito control.