Captain Stan The Mosquito Man
This month we spotlight one of the most unusual, and most pestiferous mosquitoes that PMPs might have to deal with – the cattail mosquito Coquillettidia perturbans. Even the name indicates that this is a bad actor. Here is the lowdown:
- There are about 60 species of Coquillettidia worldwide but only one in the United States; the cattail mosquito. This species occurs throughout Canada, the United States, and Mexico. It is widely distributed across the eastern U.S., southern Canada, and several areas in the western U.S.
- They prefer to breed in permanent freshwater sources such as along the edges of lakes and ponds.
- Much like the common house mosquito (Culex), individual eggs are glued together by the female as they are deposited to form a floating raft. She can lay between 150-350 eggs after just one blood meal. The eggs hatch in 2-3 days.
- The larvae and pupae do not obtain their required oxygen at the water surface via the siphon (air tube) as almost all other mosquito species do. Instead, their siphon is heavily sclerotized and resembles a short, pointed saw. This modified structure is then used to pierce the hollow roots or submersed stems of aquatic plants for respiration – kind of like a ‘mosquito snorkel’!
- Adults are medium-sized and have a ‘salt and pepper’ coloration due to the colors and patterns of scales on the wings. The life span of the adults is approximately one to two months, although this can vary depending on environmental conditions. Females tend to outlive the males.
- Female cattail mosquitoes are persistent and painful biters of humans and domestic animals. They actively seek hosts during early evening hours but will also bite humans in shady places where adult mosquitoes are resting during the day. They can penetrate clothing with their mouthparts, and they are able to fly up to about 5 miles from their breeding sites. Ouch!
- In addition to being just a dang biting nuisance, they are known to transmit West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalomyelitis virus to humans and animals.
- So, what to do about them, you say? Good question! They are very difficult to control with conventional larvicides. Barrier sprays may have some effectiveness but remember adults can fly onto a customer’s property from long distances and may not land on treated surfaces before attacking. Removal of excessive cattail growth (source reduction) often is the only effective and economical long-term method of control. And when all else fails, use an insect repellent with an EPA-registered active ingredient. Oh, and good luck!