FORT MYERS, Florida – A new species of mosquito, called Culex lactator, has been found in at least three counties in Florida, according to a study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology by the UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory.
The mosquito, which is originally from Central and northern South America, was first discovered in Miami-Dade County in 2018, and since then, populations have been found in Collier and Lee counties.
Scientists are concerned about the potential for the mosquito to transmit diseases, particularly as it is not yet clear whether it will contribute to the transmission of West Nile or St. Louis encephalitis viruses in Florida.
Florida already faces challenges from mosquito-transmitted diseases such as West Nile virus, dengue virus, and chikungunya virus.
“There are about 90 mosquito species living in Florida, and that list is growing as new mosquito species are introduced to the state from elsewhere in the world,” said Lawrence Reeves, lead author of the study and an assistant professor and mosquito biologist at the UF/IFAS research center in Vero Beach.
The UF/IFAS researchers used DNA analysis and other tools to identify the new species as Culex lactator. The mosquitoes were first found in rural sites in southern Miami-Dade County in 2018, with additional adult and immature specimens collected through 2022.
Scientists with the Collier Mosquito Control District and Lee County Mosquito Control District found the mosquito in their counties in 2022, indicating that it has likely spread from its initial point of introduction.
The rate of new mosquito species arriving in Florida is concerning to scientists, with as many as 17 non-native mosquito species already established in the state. Of these, 11 were first reported in the past two decades, and six were detected in the past five years.
The mosquitoes Aedes aegypti, Aedes albopictus, and Culex quinquefasciatus – among the most important disease vectors in the United States – like Culex lactator, are nonnative species, introduced from the tropics.