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What's All the Buzz about Mosquitoes?

Public health concerns

Mosquito-borne illnesses have plagued humans throughout history. Modern vector control and monitoring programs have greatly reduced the incidence of yellow fever, malaria, and encephalitis viruses. Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), St. Louis encephalitis (SLE), and West Nile encephalitis (WNE) remain significant diseases that have recently afflicted people in New York. Management includes intense surveillance for mosquito outbreaks and routine monitoring for diseases.

County-based vector control programs aim to use prevention to limit mosquito breeding. If encephalitis does break out in a community, outdoor activities must be restricted. The goal is to reduce the threat of disease and minimize pesticide applications for mosquito control.

An unusual outbreak of West Nile encephalitis in New York during 1999 has refocused our attention on vector-borne diseases. This and other encephalitis viruses not only endanger humans but can infect and kill horses. Birds that are infected can help spread the disease and may also die. The emergence of exotic diseases such as this may be linked to increased human travel and transport of goods throughout the world. New disease outbreaks are unpredictable and illustrate the need for public education and involvement.

Common mosquitoes

Three mosquitos are mentioned here, but this brochure focuses on Culex and how to manage it.

Culex pipiens, common house mosquito. Culex mosquitoes are persistent biters that feed at dusk, night, and dawn. Culex mosquitoes prefer birds as hosts, but because they are frequently found in homes, they bite humans and can transmit encephalitis. These mosquitoes breed in small pools of stagnant water containing organic debris and do not move far from breeding sites. Culex pipiens is the most important mosquito pest in urban and suburban areas. It matures from egg to adult in 7 days; adults generally live 10­60 days.


drawing of a culex mosquito

Culex sp. at rest

Aedes sollicitans,salt marsh mosquito, found at the coast. Aedes mosquitoes are aggressive and painful biters that feed during daylight and prefer humans. Aedes will fly several miles from breeding sites (areas that flood) but usually do not enter buildings. Because these mosquitoes are associated with naturally occurring floodwaters, residents need only to be aware of outbreaks, then take measures to avoid being bitten. Counties on the coast have programs that manage salt marsh mosquitoes.

Anopheles species. These mosquitoes are associated with permanent fresh waters with vegetation; eggs are laid on the surface of calm water. This mosquito is the only one that carries malaria. Although malaria does not normally occur in New York, several cases have been reported in recent years.