Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Florida: Home of SUPER, MEGA, and CANNIBAL Mosquitoes in OUTER SPACE

Gallinipper / University of Florida Entomology & Nematology

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- Not since the 1954 movie Creature from the Black Lagoon has Florida been tied to so many 1950's sci-fi movie-sounding headlines as this past week's national news cycle.


But with a real-life Mosquito Lagoon neighboring the launch pads at Kennedy Space Center, it was only matter of time that Cape Canaveral, second to only Roswell, New Mexico in location for sci-fi movie plots, became the center of yet another sensationalized sci-fi tabloid journalism story.


To separate fact from science fiction, Brevard Times has posted the following Q & A:



Are there SUPER mosquitoes in Florida?  

Yes.  "Super Mosquito" refers to the Asian Tiger Super Mosquito, a black and white striped blood-sucker that has been in Brevard County for years, according to Brevard County Mosquito Control biologist Chris Richmond.


What's with the new 'MEGA' mosquitoes in Florida?  

Well, the term (not the mosquito) was just recently invented in news headlines, but has come to mean the Gallinipper (Psorophora ciliata), an aggressive Florida floodwater mosquito that is native to North America, found mostly to the east of the Mississippi.  The Gallinipper has been recorded on Florida's Space Coast as far back as the 1950's, according to Richmond.



Are there MEGA VAMPIRE mosquitoes in Florida? 

Yes.  Along with other mosquitoes feeding on live animals, only female Gallinippers are blood feeders.  Male Gallinippers survive on flower nectar.  The female's bite comes with a prick victims won't soon forget.


“The bite really hurts, I can attest to that,” said University of Florida entomologist Phil Kaufman.


Any FLESH-EATING CANNIBAL ZOMBIE mosquitoes in Florida?

Yes.  Although Florida is plagued with both mosquitoes and home-made drug addicts, Brevard Times was unable to find any research about the effects on a mosquito after sucking blood from someone who smoked marijuana or was on bath salts.  


However, the hungry 'MEGA mosquito' Gallinipper larvae are known to mindlessly cannibalize other mosquito larvae - and even devour tadpoles!
 

When are the MUTANT mosquitoes coming to the Florida Keys?

British-based Oxitec's genetically-engineered mutant mosquitoes are still awaiting FDA approval before deployment by Florida Keys Mosquito Control District.  If approved, the Sunshine State could fully round-out its 1950's sci-fi mosquito horror titles and be on a fair playing field with Brazil for both oranges and mutant mosquitoes.


What happens if a mosquito flies into a Florida nuclear power plant?

If it survives radiation exposure, the mosquito is sterilized.  According to research, male mosquitoes don't feel like mating like they used to after exposure.


Mosquitoes in OUTER SPACE?

Yes.  Florida's unofficial state 'bird' was a stow-away on-board NASA's Space Shuttle Endeavour after its launch from Kennedy Space Center in 1994.

  
The blood-suckers have proven themselves to persevere the rigors of both spaceflight and a zero-gravity, high-radiation, atmosphere-free environment.  In 2009, a mosquito survived for a year-and-a-half clinging on the outside of the International Space Station in temperatures ranging from minus 230 degrees to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Also, a mosquito character named Toby played a supporting role in Fly Me To The Moon.  A 2008 animated movie about insect stowaways aboard the Apollo 11 lunar mission that takes place in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Is this really news?
No. Nothing has changed in the past few years to deserve this hype, according to Richmond.

Has this story been sensationalized in the past?
Yes.  Brevard Times was the only news outlet to debunk a similar story back in 2011.


What should we really be worried about?

According to Richmond, there are two concerns for Floridians when it comes to mosquitoes: health and comfort.


Culex nigripalpus / University of Florida Entomology & Nematology

When it comes to health, the Culex nigripalpus mosquito tops the list as the most dangerous in Florida. Its larvae develop in shallow flooded ditches along roadways.  The Culex is capable of transmitting St. Louis and Japanese encephalitis as well as West Nile virus.  This mosquito was responsible for Florida epidemics around Tampa in the late 1950's and early 60's and in Central Florida in 1977 and 1990. It has also transmitted eastern equine encephalitis from Titusville north to Jacksonville and west to Pensacola.

Aedes aegypti / University of Florida Entomology & Nematology
Of concern in South Florida, and the health crisis cited by local officials to distribute genetically-modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys, is Dengue Fever.   Dengue infection is acquired through the bite of certain species of mosquitoes, primarily Aedes aegypti, but also Aedes albopictus.
Black Saltwater Marsh Mosquito / University of Florida Entomology & Nematology

When it comes to comfort, the average-sized Brown and Black Saltwater Marsh Mosquitoes are the most likely to give the ordinary mosquito bite to Florida coastal residents.

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