You can’t tell by looking at them, but these two critters actually have more in common than you might think. Asian tiger mosquitoes and northern snakeheads are invasive species, meaning they are not native to our region. They have both been wreaking havoc in local ecosystems for years.
Here’s how Asian tiger mosquitoes and northern snakeheads are making life unbearable for humans in local backyards and fish in local rivers!
Asian Tiger Mosquito
Asian tiger mosquitoes were unintentionally introduced to the continental US in 1985. According to the USDA Invasive Species Information Center they were transported here in a shipment of used tires imported from Asia. They can survive in a broad range of climates, and they since have spread throughout the eastern and central United States.
The Center for Invasive Species Research explains that Asian tiger mosquitoes can be easily distinguished from other species because they have silver-white stripes on their bodies.
Unlike native species, which wait until dusk to bite, tiger mosquitoes are daytime feeders, making it tough to be outdoors during the day. But these mosquitoes are more than just a nuisance. According to the Center for Invasive Species Research, Asian tiger mosquitoes can carry many dangerous viruses, including West Nile, encephalitis, dengue, yellow fever and dog heartworm.
The northern snakehead is a type of fish and is also native to Asia, but it was first discovered in the US in 1997. The USDA National Invasive Species Information Center reports that snakeheads were likely released from fish markets, and in the early 2000s, the species established reproducing populations in rivers in Maryland and Virginia.
Snakeheads are cause for environmental concern because they prey on native fish, crustaceans and amphibians. The USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database warns that snakeheads also have a voracious feeding style, making them an aggressive competitor for native species such as largemouth bass. Parasites and diseases carried by snakeheads pose a risk to native species as well.
What Can We Do?
Both of these invasive species are threatening our local ecosystems, and action needs to be taken to prevent them from overtaking native populations.
If you catch a northern snakehead, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources recommends that you kill it and do not return it to the water. If the fish has a reward tag, measure the length, note the exact place it was caught, and call the phone number on the tag.
Snakeheads are also edible – so, to do your part to eradicate the species, you can cook it up and eat it for dinner! If you’re not a fisherman, look for restaurants with snakehead on the menu. The more we eat, the fewer there are in our waterways!
While we can’t eat Asian tiger mosquitoes, there is plenty we can do to limit their growth and spread in our area. According to the Maryland Department of Agriculture, the most effective method of controlling tiger mosquitoes is reducing or eliminating their breeding habitats. This means draining or removing any containers where water collects – including: clogged rain gutters, tires, buckets, cans, bottles, empty flower pots, boats, bird baths, pools or ponds, tarps, children’s toys and pet dishes. If you have a rain barrel, be sure to cover it with mesh netting to prevent access for mosquitoes.
In addition, targeted insecticide application can keep Asian tiger mosquito populations in check. Contact DC Mosquito Squad to find out how mosquito control services can provide you with relief from the constant biting and buzzing – while helping to limit the growth of a harmful invasive species!