VERO BEACH, FLORIDA- Aedes scapularis, a new mosquito species that can spread disease, has made its way to Florida and exhibits indicators that it may be able to persist in both urban and rural areas, which could be dangerous for the public’s health.
Since this new species has entered the Florida peninsula, researchers from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) have predicted where in Florida the environmental conditions may be favorable for it to expand.
In addition to spreading other illnesses to humans and animals, this new, non-native mosquito can spread the viruses that cause yellow fever, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, and dog heartworm. It spans a wide area, from Texas to large portions of the Caribbean and South America. The species is common in the counties of Miami-Dade and Broward.
In their most recent study, which was a follow-up and was published in the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute journal Insects, researchers from the UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory suggested that Aedes scapularis-friendly environments might exist along Florida’s coastal counties. More precisely, the counties in Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts from Monroe and Miami-Dade up north to Martin County on the Atlantic Coast and in Citrus County on the Gulf Coast are expected to be extremely appropriate for this species.
Lawrence Reeves, a research scientist at the center in Vero Beach and a co-author in the report, stated that “at least 16 Florida counties were predicted to be highly suitable for Aedes scapularis, suggesting that vigilance is needed by mosquito control and public health agencies to recognize the further spread of this vector.”
The researchers employed a technique called ecological niche modeling, which employs a machine-learning algorithm to forecast the possible distribution of a species throughout the terrain. The procedure is frequently used to identify regions that non-native species might infiltrate.
According to Lindsay Campbell, assistant professor of entomology and nematology at the research center, “We are able to predict the potential distribution of Aedes scapularis in Florida and parts of the southeastern United States, including Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia and parts of South Carolina.” In order to determine which regions would be favorable for the species, this model compares environmental and climatic data from the mosquito’s natural habitat in Central and South America with related data from the southeast United States and Florida.
While the map does not show the likelihood that Aedes scapularis is found in a specific location, it can be used as a tool to determine where the environment may be suitable for this mosquito as it spreads across Florida. The model’s output is a map showing suitable environments where the species could potentially spread.
Now that it has spread to the mainland, this information is helpful to mosquito control districts looking out for Aedes scapularis, and it can be updated frequently, according to Campbell.
To aid in making precise forecasts, the model used Aedes scapularis records from several Caribbean islands as well as from South, Central, and parts of North America.
Between Florida City in southern Miami-Dade County and the Pompano Beach region in northern Broward County in 2020, the team amassed 121 Aedes scapularis specimens. Scientists developed predictive models by integrating these recordings, which provided crucial information about the locations where the mosquito had been detected, with humidity and temperature readings obtained from satellite remote-sensing data.
We were able to take into account environmental conditions over the whole geographic range of this species and anticipate its possible distribution across the southern United States thanks to the utilization of satellite remote-sensing data products, according to Campbell.
The next steps in the study of this novel species involve continuing to collaborate with colleagues in the Florida mosquito control districts in order to incorporate fresh data into new models. Additionally, this species’ movement across the landscape and the kinds of local settings that encourage or restrict its regional spread can be observed by scientists.
According to Reeves, “this information will give useful insight into potential dangers connected with Aedes scapularis while also providing crucial information regarding prospective outcomes for introductions of new mosquito species.”
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