Asian Tiger Mosquitoes

  • Written By Dan Edwards on September 8, 2018
    Last Updated: December 10, 2020

Heard about Asian Tiger Mosquitoes and wish to learn more? Or maybe you’re going through a tough time living close to a group of these insects and would like to know how to get rid of them.

What Do Asian Tiger Mosquitoes Look Like?

Asian tiger mosquitoes are so called because of their distinctive appearance. These mosquitoes, also known as Aedes albopictus, have striped black and white legs. The pattern is like that of the stripes on a tiger.

The scutum, or the mosquito’s back, is black. A white stripe runs from the upper head down to the thorax (body). This stripe is always singular and centered.

asian tiger mosquito

Even for a mosquito, this species is on the small side. They are approximately ¼ of an inch long. Females tend to be at least 20 percent larger than males, however. The males and females also have different antennae. Males have large, feathery antennae whereas females do not.

As with all other mosquito species, male Asian tiger mosquitoes do not feed on blood. Their mouthparts are built for consuming plant juices only, rather than blood.

These mosquitoes are members of the Aedes genus of mosquitoes. This means they have a distinctively narrow abdomen that ends in a point. The abdomen of the mosquito is sheer black and covered in dark scales.

Where Can Asian Tiger Mosquitoes Be Found?

The Asian tiger mosquito was originally found only in Southeast Asia. Unlike some other species, Aedes albopictus is not a strong flyer. Still, these mosquitoes have managed to spread across the globe.

The species was introduced to countries across the globe as a result of human activities. Transportation was the primary culprit. Mosquitoes accidentally trapped in cargo in Asia would end up in different locations.

Asian tiger mosquitoes arrived in the United States in shipments of tires from Asia. Unfortunately, adult Asian tiger mosquitoes were not the only passengers in these tires.

Their hardy eggs would often be transported as well, finally hatching when they reached the destination. The first detection of the Asian tiger mosquitoes on US territory was during the early 1980s. As these mosquitoes are adaptable insects, they are able to thrive in most climates.

The species multiplied rapidly in the southeastern United States, spreading from there.

asian tiger mosquito

Central and eastern states became home to Asian tiger mosquito populations as well.

Today, more than half of the United States is home to this type of mosquito. Asian tiger mosquitoes found their way to Europe in a similar manner. The first official recording of Aedes albopictus in Europe was in 1979 in Albania.

Enormous shipments of old tires were found to be home to large numbers of Asian tiger mosquitoes. By 1990, the distinctly-striped mosquito was identified in Italy.

Since then, these mosquitoes have been discovered in many other countries in Europe. Germany, Switzerland, France and more, are all hosts to Asian tiger mosquitoes.

International sale and trade of the plant, dracaena, also helped transport this species. Dracaena, also known as lucky bamboo, was purchased from Asia and shipped worldwide.

Lucky bamboo would be packaged in standing water to guarantee survival during transport. Any kind of stagnant or standing water is, of course, a potential breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Eggs, larvae, and pupae were, therefore, carried in the lucky bamboo containers to their destinations. These included countries throughout Europe and the United States as well.

Aedes albopictus has established itself in almost every territory around the globe today. South America, Africa and the Middle East all host Asian tiger mosquitoes. The same is true of Australasia and regions in the Caribbean.

Can Asian Tiger Mosquitoes Carry and Transmit Disease?

Asian tiger mosquitoes can carry and transmit serious diseases. The species is one of the most widespread disease carriers in the world.

They have shown the capacity to adapt to and thrive in all sorts of climates. Exempting Antarctica, Aedes albopictus can be found on every other continent.

There are five illnesses that can be transmitted by mosquitoes in the Aedes genus. These include the Zika, Dengue, West Nile and Chikungunya viruses.

If a pregnant woman is infected with the Zika virus, her child may be born with birth defects. Nearly four billion people are at risk of getting Dengue fever from Aedes mosquitoes.

Dengue can be fatal in susceptible individuals if it is not treated. 20 percent of people with West Nile virus will develop lethal complications. The Chikungunya virus can cause long-term joint pain in elderly individuals.

Animals can acquire diseases from Asian tiger mosquito bites too. These insects can transmit Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) to horses. Dogs can contract heartworm parasites.

Over the past decade, Asian tiger mosquitoes have been the cause of several outbreaks. Dengue and Chikungunya epidemics throughout the world have been linked to Aedes albopictus.

asian mosquito

These mosquitoes have grown to develop a preference for human hosts. However, these pests are opportunistic. They will target other warm-blooded hosts if necessary.

These can include both wild and domestic animals.

Additionally, Asian tiger mosquitoes are regarded as aggressive biters. The females bite rapidly, making them difficult to swat or avoid. While many other types of mosquito are most active from dusk until dawn, the Asian tiger mosquito is a daytime feeder.

They attack hosts from the early morning hours until the afternoon. Together with the swift bite, this behavior makes it harder to avoid being bitten.

All these factors enhance their ability to spread diseases. Aedes albopictus can also pick up and transmit native pathogens.

For example, Asian tiger mosquitoes in Italy now carry Dirofilaria. This is a type of roundworm. Dirofilaria can be passed on to animal and human hosts.

How Do Mosquitoes Transmit Disease?

Mosquitoes that carry viruses or bacteria transmit them through their bite. Remember that only female mosquitoes feed on blood—males are harmless.

Mosquitoes, unlike fleas, do not live on their hosts full time. They bite and feed during their active periods.

When feeding, the mosquito must break through the skin. Her feeding tube (proboscis) is then inserted so that she can suck blood.

She will also release saliva that works as an anticoagulant to keep the blood flowing. Any disease or bacteria that the mosquito is carrying can be passed on through her saliva. Incidentally, the saliva is also the reason that mosquito bites swell and itch on most of us.

Breeding Habits

All mosquitoes pass through four separate stages of development. These include egg, larva, pupa, and finally, adult.

A female Asian tiger mosquito will mate only one time in her life. Sperm from this single union is stored in her body, allowing her to lay eggs several times. She will produce between 40 and 150 eggs per batch.

These mosquitoes were originally considered wild, meaning they would breed in natural environments. The females would lay their eggs beside naturally occurring pools of water—in tree holes, for example.

However, Asian tiger mosquitoes became domesticated over time. They altered their breeding grounds to be closer to their human hosts.

Unfortunately, this is one of the reasons Asian tiger mosquitoes are so invasive. They can lay their eggs in anything, from old buckets of water to bird baths. They instinctively lay eggs in containers that are linked to human populations.

The ideal breeding habitat for these mosquitoes is outdoors. The female will seek out a container that has dirty or stagnant water in it. This is because clean water will not provide nourishment for the larvae when they hatch.

mosquito larvae in water
Mosquito larvae positioned in standing water

Female Asian tiger mosquitoes require blood meals to reproduce. The protein in blood is necessary for the eggs to develop.

Approximately four to five days after taking a blood meal, the female mosquito will be ready to lay eggs. She will lay the eggs one by one on the sides of her selected breeding habit. For example, at the side of a bird bath in your yard.

Egg hatching is triggered by increased water level. Once the eggs become submerged, the Asian tiger mosquito larvae will emerge. The larvae resemble minuscule worms. Larvae will eat organic waste, which they find in the water, to survive.

The larvae then pass through four ‘instars’. These are a type of molt, where the larvae grow larger after each instar.

Under favorable conditions, the larvae will enter the pupal stage after five days or so. If the temperature is too low, this may take up to 10 days. Pupae are incapable of feeding. After several days, the adult Asian tiger mosquito will emerge from the pupae.

newborn mosquitoes
Newborn mosquitoes

As this species is native to Asia, it is accustomed to tropical climates. The Asian tiger mosquito, however, proved it was up to the challenge of adapting to new weather patterns.

In regions with cold winters, these mosquitoes can enter into diapause. This is a metabolic state that certain insects enter for self-preservation. It can occur in fully grown adults and eggs.

Asian tiger mosquito eggs can remain viable for up to one year, even if they dry out. The larva will remain safely inside the egg in diapause. When better conditions occur (e.g. humidity and moisture) the egg will hatch.

You can take measures to reduce Asian tiger mosquito populations on your property. Keep your yard neat and remove debris that could harbor rainwater and become breeding grounds. Remember to regularly empty out any containers which may hold stagnant water, such as plant saucers.