The common mosquito may seem like less of a threat than more unique creepy crawlers you may see in your yard. However, these pesky pests can still bring dangerous public health risks, not to mention painful mosquito bites.
Of the 59 mosquito species native to Ohio, only a few have the ability to transmit mosquito-borne diseases. Read on to learn more about each of the five most common mosquito species in Ohio and how to prevent or control a mosquito problem.
- The most prevalent types of mosquitoes in Ohio are the Asian tiger mosquito, the inland floodwater mosquito, the Northern house mosquito, the common mosquito, and the common malaria mosquito.
- All of these species have the potential to carry dangerous pathogens like encephalitis, the West Nile virus, and malaria.
- There are measures you can take for mosquito prevention and control, like eliminating breeding sites, spraying insecticide and larvicide, and draining standing water on your property.
Asian Tiger Mosquito
Known for their white stripes, Asian tiger mosquitoes are aggressive and persistent.
In nature, Asian tiger mosquitoes typically breed in bamboo stalks or inside trees. Without access to such places, they’ll seek to breed in any small, water-holding container, natural or manmade. This includes buckets, tarps, garbage cans, plastic toys, flower pots, wheelbarrows, and more.
Female Asian tiger mosquitoes are aggressive human biters, particularly during the daytime (males feed on plant juices and do not bite, but adult females require a blood meal to nourish their eggs). They’re also known to bite both domestic and wild animals. Asian tiger mosquito larvae are known as “wrigglers”—they swim with a wriggling motion. Asian tiger mosquitoes are drawn to dark clothing, perspiration, carbon dioxide, and certain odors. They’re known to follow humans around in pursuit of more bites. If a mosquito follows you into your house or car, it’s probably an Asian tiger mosquito.
Asian tiger mosquitoes can carry diseases like encephalitis (including Eastern equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis (SLE), and lacrosse encephalitis), dengue, yellow fever, West Nile virus, and dog heartworm.
St. Louis encephalitis (SLE) in particular attacks the nervous system and can be deadly, especially to children and the elderly. However, there is no evidence to date that Asian tiger mosquitoes have spread disease in the U.S.
Inland Floodwater Mosquito
Staking a claim on every continent except Antarctica, the inland floodwater mosquito is one of the most common species worldwide.
Inland floodwater mosquitoes breed in any temporary body of freshwater, such as puddles, rain pools, and hogwater. When females lay eggs offshore and the eggs become flooded with water (i.e., additional rain), they hatch.
Female inland floodwater mosquitoes are aggressive biters, particularly during the day, and are attracted to light. They also enjoy sugary liquids such as sap, nectar, and honeydew. These adult mosquitoes breed quickly in stagnant water and are quite invasive in a variety of climates.
Inland floodwater mosquitoes can carry diseases like dog heartworm, myxomatosis (a deadly viral disease for rabbits), and Tahyna virus (which causes a fever that disappears after two days, but may lead to meningitis or encephalitis). Studies show that the inland floodwater mosquito has the potential to serve as a Zika virus vector as well.
Northern House Mosquito
Prevalent in every county across Ohio, the Northern house mosquito can live in urban, suburban, or rural areas and can carry dangerous diseases.
Most common in urban areas, the Northern house mosquito can also be found in suburban and rural settings. They don’t travel far from their habitats—if you see one, that means their larval breeding site is at most ¾ of a mile away.
Both female and male Northern house mosquitoes consume nectar for energy. Female mosquitoes of this species only mate once, but males can mate several times throughout their lives. Females’ preferred hosts are birds, but humans and dogs come in at a close second. Females that spread disease typically bite an infected bird, followed by a human or dog. Most active at twilight, these mosquitoes rest in the shade during the day.
Northern house mosquitoes can carry dangerous diseases like various types of encephalitis and, most notably, the West Nile virus. The West Nile virus usually only causes mild cold symptoms and fever lasting a few days, but it can sometimes cause severe symptoms like vision loss, tremors, stupor/disorientation, high fever, headache, numbness, paralysis, coma, and even death (it causes four deaths per year out of 58 annual cases in Ohio).
These aquatic nocturnal mosquitoes are incredibly pervasive, as they’ll breed in any stagnant water, no matter how dirty or clean.
Common house mosquitoes (culex pipiens) breed in stagnant pools of groundwater, including water in artificial containers and even sewage (they tolerate water that ranges from high in organic content to grossly polluted).
These nocturnal creatures are known for their annoying buzzing sound and will enter your home in search of a host anytime between sundown and sunrise. They thrive in wet, humid, temperate climates and weather. Common house mosquitoes survive the winter by sheltering in basements, sheds, or caves.
Common mosquitoes can carry dangerous diseases like encephalitis and the West Nile virus. They’re also known carriers of avian malaria and filarial worms, which live in the lymphatic system and affect primarily the lower extremities (as well as the ears, mucous membranes, and any amputation stumps) with symptoms like rashes and arthritis.
Common Malaria Mosquito
The most important vector of malaria in the Eastern U.S., the common malaria mosquito is a deadly pest that still spreads malaria on occasion (despite malaria’s general eradication in the U.S. since the 1950s).
Common malaria mosquitoes are typically found in freshwater and saltwater marshes, mangrove swamps, rice fields, grassy ditches, at the edges of streams and rivers, and in small, temporary rain pools and puddles.
Primarily active just after nightfall, common malaria mosquitoes take shelter in dark corners and buildings during the day before taking flight. They primarily feast on humans if allowed inside (biting is much less common outside). Under normal conditions, these mosquitoes will only fly within a mile radius, but in certain cases they’re capable of traveling further.
While malaria has been mostly eradicated in the U.S., a few people are still infected annually (there are about 2,000 annual cases according to the CDC, but the vast majority are in travelers and immigrants from abroad). Uncomplicated malaria involves fits of heat, cold, and sweating, as well as symptoms like fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, and general malaise.
Severe malaria can be deadly and can induce severe anemia, seizures, coma, acute kidney injury, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), hemoglobin in the urine, and more. Malaria “attacks” last 6-10 hours and may occur months or even years after the original symptoms subside.
Prevention and Control
Common mosquito control methods include insecticide, larvicide, elimination of breeding sites (i.e., stagnant water in buckets, puddles, etc.), and killing larvae and pupae (with large heads and a narrow thorax, these larvae and pupae typically “wiggle” around just below the surface of a body of water; pupae remain in water until the mosquito’s adult body emerges). To protect yourself, wear long sleeves and long pants to prevent bites. Tuck in your shirt and stay inside when possible (especially when a warning for mosquito borne illnesses is in effect).
Use structural barriers like mosquito nets and cover gaps in walls, doors, and windows. You can also spray EPA-approved mosquito repellents where possible. You may even choose to wear head nets in areas with a high mosquito population, such as salt marshes. In order to eliminate breeding sites, empty or drain any stagnant water (i.e., puddles, flower pots, gutters), mow your lawn regularly, and frequently change the water in any bird baths and fountains.