Why they won’t just pick any Tom, Dick, or Harry
Let’s play the dating game!
Say you’re a female Aedes aegypti mosquito and you have three types of male mosquitos to choose from: one from your own species and two from different species. While you can “date” any of them, which would you pick (keeping in mind that long walks on the beach and astrological signs aren’t usually too important to mosquitos)?
In the 1980s, A. aegypti – also known as yellow fever mosquitos – were faced with a similar decision. Throughout the southeastern US, they were being displaced by their invading cousins, Aedes albopictus (Asian tiger mosquitos). With fewer of their own species to mate with, A. aegypti started mating with A. albopictus. The problem, however, is that this made the yellow fever mosquitos sterile for life. This didn’t happen to the Asian tiger mosquitos. While they couldn’t produce offspring with the other mosquitos, their fertility wasn’t affected once they went back to their own species.
A potentially great way to get rid of dangerous mosquitos thwarted
When it comes to dangerous mosquitos, A. aegypti are some of the worst of the bunch, as they spread an assortment of diseases. In addition to yellow fever, this includes Zika, chikungunya, and dengue fever. So, the fact that they were becoming sterile after mating with A. albopictus seemed like a win-win for everybody. And it could’ve been, except for one thing: A. aegypti changed its dating profile.
Recently, researchers discovered that it only took six generations for A. aegypti females to become much pickier when it came to choosing their mates. Tests in both a lab and in the wild in which they were exposed to A. albopictus showed the same thing: They just weren’t interested anymore.
“We wanted to know what genes were involved in the evolution of this choosiness in female A. aegypti mosquitoes,” said Martha Burford Reiskind, research assistant professor in the Department of Applied Ecology at NC State University. “We can now look at certain gene regions and feel confident that they are involved in mating behavior.”
If there is a bright side to mosquitos wanting only to mate with their own species, it’s this: They’re mating later in their short lifetimes. However, because they only need to mate one time and can keep producing offspring due to stored-up sperm, this may not matter too much.
This latest study could be just the jumping-off point for further research into the mating habits of mosquitos. Burford Reiskind wants to find out more about the role genes play and hopes to conduct a bigger study in areas where both types of mosquitos have similar populations. Additional information could be beneficial for controlling the diseases they spread.
“Invasive species are often seen as better competitors for scant resources, but that doesn’t seem to be the case for these mosquitoes,” Burford Reiskind added. “This study suggests other mechanisms are at play.”
Keep your home protected from all types of mosquitos
Regardless of which mosquitos are mating or not mating with other mosquitos, there is an easy way for you to avoid them and their offspring: your very own control system. A mosquito misting system set up on your property will repel these insects, along with things like flies, ticks, and gnats. Get in touch with Platinum Mosquito Protection for a free onsite consultation.