Because of the high temperatures in the winter, mosquitoes are still present and very active in Crete, enough for the Directorate of Public Health of the Region of Crete to issue a tiger mosquito alert in mid-January.
Dr. Antonis Papadakis, the Deputy Director of the Directorate of Public Health of the Region of Crete, emphasized how mosquitoes are climate change-adaptable by highlighting how warm temperatures promote their proliferation. While mosquito control campaigns usually end in October, this year’s sustained warmth has raised worries and the imperative to continue monitoring mosquito populations, species, and any infections. He mentioned that residents are still dealing with day and night mosquito bites until mid-January, needing bug repellents.
The tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), native to Southeast Asian tropical woods, is an anthropophilic species adapted to various habitats and environments, especially in urban areas, as it seeks opportunities to prey on humans. Its bites can spread illnesses like dengue, chikungunya, and Zika, posing a significant risk to public health.
Only Antarctica is currently safe from the growth of this invading species, which has taken over nearly the whole world. Due to its capacity to adapt to areas with severe winters, this rapid expansion—which is primarily tied to international trade, particularly in tyres—has made it one of the most invasive species in the world.
How is a tiger mosquito different from other types of mosquitos?
Tiger mosquitoes are incredibly resilient and well-suited to the human environment; they like densely populated suburban and urban settings. The females deposit their eggs in man-made water containers and sinks, including flower pots, rain gutters, and drains. Here is how they are different from other mosquito species:
- Diurnal insects: Tiger mosquitoes are diurnal, meaning they attack during the day (mainly in the morning and evening) and don’t produce any noise as they fly, unlike common mosquitoes (Culex), which typically bite at night.
- Small size: The term “tiger mosquito” is deceptive. The length of this kind of mosquito is less than 5 mm, which is smaller than a centime coin!
- Black and white stripes: The tiger mosquito is actually white and black, not yellow and black, as its name suggests. Another distinguishing feature is the white dorsal line that runs the length of its thorax. Its legs are striped as well.
You should also know that only the female mosquito bites, and only after mating. The blood drawn during the bite is a protein source for the eggs’ development. Typical female mosquitoes may be drawn to mammals, birds, or cold-blooded creatures like snakes and frogs; however, the tiger mosquito is anthropophilic because it prefers human blood.
Crete’s anti-mosquito programs
The region is actively monitoring mosquito populations and species and the diseases they may carry. The Egyptian yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti) is the focus of particular interest because of the significant concerns raised by its introduction to Crete. Precautions are in place to stop its establishment, such as placing traps at the island’s entrance points.
Crete has begun a winter mosquito activity monitoring program as a reaction to the problems that mosquitoes present. This project aims to use CO2-light mosquito traps to gather entomological data. Actions will also be conducted to monitor invasive species and evaluate the likelihood of malaria-related diseases. The region is working to reduce the effects of illnesses spread by mosquitoes, increase public health protection, and improve disease prevention.
The “Mosquito Vision” app will be released in April to include locals in mosquito control initiatives. Through this app, residents can report mosquito outbreaks, facilitating the quick response of municipal and health officials. The Region of Crete will take preventative action to address mosquito-related issues and protect the general public’s health.