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UF Researcher Says New Mosquito Is Mild-Mannered

Cindy Spence

George O’Meara, (561) 778-7200

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VERO BEACH—University of Florida entomologist George O’Meara has discovered a new variety of mosquito.

But the mosquito researcher says that’s good news.

The new mosquito sets up housekeeping in bromeliads, which means it uses up one of the habitats in which the dreaded Asian Tiger Mosquito breeds. While the Asian Tiger can spread disease, the new kid on the block does not even feed on humans.

The new mosquito was named Culex biscaynensis because it was found near Biscayne Bay while O’Meara was on a mosquito safari of sorts, sampling for the little pests in southeastern Miami-Dade County.

“Right away, this one looked a little different,” said O’Meara, who is based at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach, a part of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “But what was it?”

O’Meara wasn’t all that surprised to find a new mosquito in southeastern Miami-Dade. After all, that area of Miami-Dade County was severely damaged by Hurricane Andrew in 1992, so many new bromeliads were imported and some may have had mosquito passengers.

And to hear O’Meara tell it, what the world needs is more mosquitoes like this little nectar-feeder.

“The fact that it is in bromeliads is a plus,” O’Meara said, “because it takes up habitat that Asian Tiger mosquitoes would colonize, and nobody likes Asian Tiger mosquitoes.”

The Asian Tiger mosquito arrived in Jacksonville in 1986. By 1994, it had infested every county in Florida. It’s a vicious biter and the bane of picnics, barbecues and other outdoor activities throughout Florida.

People think of old, water-filled tires and pails and pots as mosquito habitats but don’t usually realize that mosquitoes can find other homes in the environment, O’Meara said.

“It’s not just artificial containers that are a problem,” O’Meara said. “Bromeliads and tree holes are natural containers for mosquito production.”