The Miami-Dade County Mosquito Control and Habitat Management Division places a premium on monitoring more than 200 mosquito traps set throughout the area, dispatching a crew of environmental techs to retrieve catch samples from all of them on a weekly basis.
A team of lab technicians and biologists subsequently works to count, sort and identify (ID) the species retrieved.
This dedication to data and science paid off in a very important way: the Aedes scapularis species was confirmed to have established a presence in Miami-Dade.
The surveillance team, led by Research Director Chalmers Vasquez, and Biologist Johana Medina, worked with the University of Florida's Florida Medical Entomology Lab (FMEL) scientist Dr. Lawrence Reeves to ID the out-of-area nuisance.
"The reporting of the Aedes scapularis can be of great medical and veterinary importance, as these mosquitoes are vectors of disease such as yellow fever, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, and dog heartworm," says Vasquez. "This also highlights the importance of South Florida as the point of entry of invasive species that might eventually lead to outbreaks of mosquito-transmitted diseases in our population."
The mosquito is found in much of tropical America, from central South America to northern Mexico and extreme southern Texas, as well as a few Caribbean islands. Previously, it was known in Florida only from three specimens collected in the Keys in 1945.
Female Aedes scapularis feed from humans and a range of other animals, readily enter buildings and feed from human hosts indoors, and relatively few mosquito species do this.
Dr. Lawrence Reeves, a molecular ecologist at UF said, "We work towards understanding Florida's native and non-native mosquito species to better protect Floridians from mosquitoes and the disease-causing pathogens they transmit."