Exotic mosquitos: Public asked to join in hunt for rare species

Exotic mosquitos: Public asked to join in hunt for rare species
The tiger mosquito originally comes from Southeast Asia. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The Belgian public has been called on to help log and monitor the presence of exotic mosquitoes in the country by taking pictures of rare species, specifically tiger mosquitos.

Sciensano and the Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITG) in Antwerp have called on people to send in pictures of various types of mosquitos to get a better idea of their presence in Belgium as part of the MEMO+ project and to protect public health. The photo can be uploaded on the project's platform.

"The monitoring of exotic mosquitoes is of crucial importance. If we can map out where the exotic mosquitoes are in time, we can better control them and delay their establishment in our country as long as possible," Isra Deblauwe, an entomologist at the ITG, said.

"We have found the tiger mosquito regularly in Belgium, but for the time being the species has not yet established itself here. Even if the mosquitoes do establish themselves here, it is important to monitor their populations closely in order to assess the risk of virus transmission."

Viruses and infections

Monitoring the small black and white striped mosquito is vital for public health, as it can transfer viruses of certain infections such as dengue, chikungunya and zika fever to other people through its bites.

"If the mosquito species were to become established here, every person who returns from a trip infected with it would carry a risk of local virus transmission. We are therefore counting on your help," Sciensano project manager Javiera Rebolledo said.

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If you think you have spotted a rare species of mosquito in Belgium, you can take a picture of it and upload it to the platform. Scientists will then check whether it is a tiger mosquito, for example.

Decade-long search

The ITG has already been actively searching for exotic mosquitoes in specific places where the chance of them entering the country was most likely for the last ten years.

In recent years, the researchers spotted the Asian tiger and bush mosquito and other exotic mosquito species in car parks, tyres and lucky bamboo import companies and industrial estates.

Originally the tiger mosquito comes from South-East Asia, but it has started settling in Europe, mainly as a result of the global goods transport, climate change and its good adaptability.

This specific type can be found in flowerpots, gutters, rain barrels and car tyres near small pools of stagnant water in your garden.

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