Move Over Murder Hornets, Virus-Carrying Asian Tiger Mosquitoes Reappear in U.S.

Barely a month and a half after the invasion of the so-called "murder hornets," the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has identified specimens of the invasive and disease-carrying Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) in Wayne County, the state's most populous county.

The mosquito, which is identifiable by its trademark white bands on its legs and body, was first found in the state back in 2017, according to local news station WNEM.

Scientists say the warming climate helped the mosquitoes infest northern regions, whereas they had previously existed in southern and northeastern states. The mosquitoes are believed to have been imported into the state via commercial shipments from other states.

The mosquitoes can spread dengue, chikungunya and Zika, viruses which can cause fever, fatigue, muscle pain, joint pain and rashes. Dengue can also cause bleeding and low blood pressure.

"Although we have not had any illnesses associated with these species of mosquitoes in Michigan, it is important to take precautions since other mosquitoes can spread viruses such as West Nile and Eastern Equine Encephalitis to people," said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the chief medical executive of the MDHHS.

The MDHHS has recommended that residents wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks, and use an EPA-registered insect repellent when outdoors. Additionally, the department suggests installing screens on windows and doors as well as getting rid of any containers holding standing water. Adults lay their eggs in stagnant water and the larvae eventually develop into biting adults.

asian tiger mosquitoes
A blood-engorged female Asian tiger mosquito feeding on a human host, 2002. Under successful experimental transmission, Aedes albopictus has been found to be a vector of West Nile Virus. Aedes is a genus of the Culicine family of mosquitoes. CDC/James Gathany/Smith Collection/Gado/Getty

While the Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia) rose to prominence in the U.S. near the start of March, headlines called them "murder hornets." But the insects didn't threaten many Americans since U.S. citizens were largely staying indoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The giant hornets are the largest species in the world, growing up to two inches in length with a three-inch wingspan. Their six-millimeter-long stinger inflicts severe pain and delivers a potent neurotoxin.

YouTube personality Nathaniel "Coyote" Peterson, who allows insects to bite and sting him on his channel Brave Wilderness, said of the hornet's sting, "It feels like someone has shoved a red-hot poker into your arm and does not remove it for close to six hours," adding that the insects neurotoxic and necrotic poison kills human tissue, paralyzing and inflaming the surrounding tissue.

Though the creatures can kill humans, especially those with allergies, the insects are far more interested in terrorizing honey bee hives. The invasive species can quickly destroy entire beehives, killing as many as 40 bees per minute to feed their corpses to their young. Bees fight back against the hornets by surrounding them and rapidly beating their wings. This raises the temperature around the hornet, essentially cooking it alive.