Mosquitoes were introduced to Hawaiʻi in 1826 and have thrived because of the warm and humid climate. But this tiny insect is causing massive damage to native ecosystems. Read more to learn about two invasive mosquitoes spreading avian diseases in Hawaiʻi.
Southern House Mosquito
The southern house mosquito, Culex quinquefasciatus, was the first mosquito introduced to Hawaiʻi. These mosquitoes spread avian malaria, a disease that causes illness and death in the native forest birds of Hawaiʻi. The southern house mosquito originates from tropical and subtropical regions of the world. The female southern house mosquito bites and feeds at night on both humans and animals. Male mosquitoes do not bite. In addition to spreading avian diseases, the southern house mosquito can also transmit deadly human diseases like West Nile Virus, Western encephalitis, and St. Louis encephalitis as well as other animal diseases–it is the primary vector of dog heartworm. Luckily, these human diseases are not present in Hawai’i.
The southern house mosquito is currently found across the Hawaiian islands from sea level to approximately 6,000 feet in elevation. As the climate in Hawaiʻi continues to warm, this mosquito is expanding its range and encroaching on the honeycreepers’ formerly safe high-elevation forest preserves.
Culex quinquefasciatus mosquito © James Gathany
Aedes albopictus mosquito
The Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, was introduced to Hawaiʻi in 1896. It spreads another serious disease that adversely impacts the survival of native Hawaiian forest birds, avian pox. The Asian tiger mosquito is native to Southeast Asia. The female Asian tiger mosquito bites and feeds during the day on both humans and animals. Male mosquitoes do not bite. And in addition to avian pox, it is also capable of transmitting human diseases including yellow fever, dengue fever, Chikungunya, and the Zika virus.
The species is present across the Hawaiian islands from sea level to approximately 4,000 feet in elevation. These mosquitoes are abundant in natural and urban areas alike. Like the southern house mosquito, increasing temperatures will enable the spread of this species to higher elevations in Hawaiʻi, further intensifying negative impacts on our native birds.