The Aedes aegypti mosquito, otherwise known as the dengue mosquito, is an insect that has been under scrutiny recently due to the widespread outbreaks of the dengue virus. Since the virus is yet to have a vaccine that has been proven to be effective, mosquito control and prevention are still the main priority when it comes to combating the dengue epidemic.
This brings us back to the Aedes aegypti. As the only vector for the disease, knowing its specific characteristics and behavior is crucial to effective mosquito control. No one wants to be afflicted with the potentially lethal disease, so for that not to happen being informed is the first step. Here is what you need to know about dengue mosquitoes and their behavior.
Before going into specific behavioral information, it is always important to be reminded of the basic information. The Aedes aegypti is a small, dark mosquito with white, lyre-shaped markings and banded legs. They are the only mosquitoes aside from other members of the Aedes genus that can transmit the dengue virus.
In terms of the virus itself, there are four known kinds of dengue and getting infected with any one of the four leads to the same symptoms and complications. Getting infected would also mean developing a life-long resistance to the virus itself, but do not forget that there are four variations and that you are only going to be immune to the specific type of dengue you have already contracted. This means you can potentially be infected with four different types in four separate instances if you’re unlucky. Just because you’ve recovered from one instance doesn’t mean you’re already safe. Complacency should be avoided.
Now that we have the preliminary information out of the way, it’s time to bring the focus back to the insect itself because there is much to know about them.
If you didn’t already know, the Aedes aegypti is an insect that likes to live and breed around wet areas, especially open sources of water. This is because their eggs and subsequent larvae can only survive in water. After male and female mosquitoes mate, a process that can be as quick as fifteen seconds, the female will need a good amount of nutrients to help produce the eggs i.e. protein-rich blood.
This is where it will go out and find people and other organisms to bite. After successfully producing the eggs, the female mosquito will find a water container, be it natural or artificial, to lay their eggs in. This can come in the form of a tree stump, a flower pot, discarded tires, buckets, tin cans, gutters, and many more as long as it has stagnant water. Aside from that, places that are within close range to where humans live are ideal larval habitats. Underground collections of water are also not out of the question.
Since females are the only ones that require blood as a food source, they are the only ones that bite other organisms. They prefer biting people because human blood is usually protein-rich and has nutrients. However, they also bite other creatures like dogs and other domesticated animals. Male Aedes aegypti are content with consuming plant nectar and will not bite.
Aedes aegypti bites are most common during the day, specifically two hours after sunrise and a couple of hours before sunset. However, don’t feel complacent at night because well-lit areas naturally attract mosquitoes and they will still bite if the opportunity arises. In terms of where they prefer to bite humans, the Aedes aegypti has been observed to prefer biting from behind, targetting your ankles and elbows.
Now that you have information to work with, here are a couple of tips for mosquito control that you can use to help prevent the spreading of dengue:
Source reduction – eliminate unnecessary container habitats that collect water because mosquitoes can, and will, breed their larvae in those habitats.
In connection to source reduction, using direct water sources and minimizing the use of wells and other water containers as a water source will be helpful.
To prevent bites, use mosquito repellant or wear long-sleeved clothing to protect your elbows and ankles.
If possible, look at the mosquito biting you because Aedes aegypti will have white marks on its body. It’s hard to miss it once spotted.
Contact your health authorities if you see an alarming amount of mosquitos in your area so that they can conduct an inspection and implement the necessary countermeasures.
A Dengue epidemic can be frightening, especially if it happens in your area. However, there’s no need to panic because there are things you can do to combat it and avoid getting infected. It all starts with being informed and then acting upon the information you’ve gained.