What kind of mosquito is that? UF/IFAS course teaches you

 

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Want to know how to differentiate between an Asian tiger mosquito and a yellow fever mosquito? Such knowledge may be worth your while because both mosquito species can transmit dangerous viruses such as chikungunya, dengue and zika if they bite you.

Students learn to identify mosquito species during a mosquito identification course being held now and in April at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory (FMEL), a Vero Beach facility and part of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

There are about 80 species in Florida; approximately 150 nationally and more than 3,500 globally, said Roxanne Connelly, a UF/IFAS Extension entomology professor and instructor for the courses. Connelly teaches identification of the adult mosquitoes, and Nathan Burkett-Cadena, an assistant professor at the UF/IFAS facility, teaches identification of larval mosquitoes.

“It is important to know which species occur in a given area because some of them are vectors of pathogens that cause disease in humans and companion animals,” Connelly said. “Many vector control agencies invest their limited resources into managing those mosquitoes that are important to public health. For agencies that conduct both nuisance mosquito control and control of mosquitoes that are medically important, mosquito identification is the basis of a sound surveillance program and integrated pest management.”

Additionally, Connelly said: “Some of the international students who attend the course are there to learn the mosquitoes of North America so that they can recognize invasive species from North America that might show up in their countries; for example, on cruise or cargo ships entering their sea ports. We need to be able to recognize species that do not occur in North America for the same reason. The idea would be to catch them early for better surveillance systems and prevent their spread into new areas.”

On the other hand, some mosquito species do not feed on humans and therefore would not be the target of a control program. For example, there would be no need to control mosquitoes that feed on frogs. But mosquito experts must be able to identify them before they know if they need to be a part of a management program.

UF/IFAS FMEL faculty first offered the courses in 2000, as a way to train mosquito control personnel in Florida. Now, the course invites students from across the globe.

Faculty at the FMEL will teach two courses in mosquito identification – one that started Feb. 29 and ends March 11; one that runs from April 4 to 15. Students learn the same material in each course. The class is usually offered once a year, but because of demand, UF/IFAS FMEL faculty are teaching the course twice this year, Connelly said.

To take the course, students must know mosquito morphology and be familiar with various microscopes and insect identification keys.

At the end of the course, which includes comprehensive laboratory experience, students take a written test. Upon successful completion of the test, students will get a UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory certification as a certified mosquito identification specialist.

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Caption: Students worldwide come to the UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory this time of year to take a course in mosquito identification. It’s important to know which species occur in a given area because some of them transmit pathogens that cause disease in humans and companion animals, said Roxanne Connelly, a UF/IFAS Extension entomology professor and an instructor for the courses.

Credit: UF/IFAS file photo.

By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

Source: Roxanne Connelly, 772-778-7200, ext. 172, crr@ufl.edu