In the photo: Entomologist Phil Kaufman shows the size difference between the invasive Asian tiger mosquito, right, and the native species Psorophora ciliata, sometimes called the gallinipper.
It hasn’t really been a particularly rainy winter, Phil Kaufman notes, but there’s been enough to leave standing water in the fields out in rural areas to be the perfect breeding ground for one particular species. [emember_protected custom_msg=”Click here and register now to read the rest of the article!”]
It has a name, too, says Kaufman, an entomologist and associate professor with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. This particular mosquito comes from a species known as Psorophora ciliate, and it could be growing at an abundant rate in Florida this summer. It’s a concern, he adds, for farmers, particularly cattle ranchers.
“This mosquito is one of many that will feed on cattle and horses, and it’s considered a rural mosquito and will be in those areas not covered over by subdivisions,” he says. “If we have another storm come through, it’s likely we will again have high numbers of these mosquitoes. But will it create a monstrous number of them? No.”
Kaufman is keeping an eye on the Psorophora ciliate just the same, in part because of an ongoing project by his students, notes Tom Nordlie, who handles IFAS News at the UF main campus building. “One of Dr. Kaufman’s graduate students had put together a document called ‘Featured Creatures,’ and it was one of many documents on insect species,” Nordlie elaborates. “I’ve been bitten by them myself.”
The students took a closer look at this species. Last year, the state had a bumper crop of the huge, biting insects sometimes called gallinippers. This year, Kaufman notes, could be a repeat. “It’s a native species,’’ he says. “It’s already here in Florida. Its populations are driven by large rainwater events.”
A floodwater mosquito, females lay eggs in soil at the edges of ponds, streams and other water bodies that can overflow following heavy rains. Last June, Tropical Storm Debbie crossed the state and caused flooding, which Kaufman points out unleashed large numbers of gallinippers.
“It grows in areas where we don’t usually see standing water, like cattle pastures,’’ he says. “They grow in pools of water in low areas. During typical Florida rainfall patterns, that water is absorbed into the ground too quickly. This mosquito requires that rain to be there for two weeks for the cycle to get going. The adult mosquito lays its eggs in the soil in low lying areas and can remain dormant for years until the rain arrives.” This can have implications for the region’s agricultural community, he adds.
“There are not any mosquito-born diseases that cattle suffer from,” he states. “There are a number of viruses that can affect horses, but they are through a very small number of mosquitoes and this is not one of them. The horses that suffer are often ones where the owner did not vaccinate them.”
On the other hand, these mosquitoes truly do live up to the term “pest” from a cattle ranchers’ perspective. “Cattle producers are really concerned for two reasons,” he explains. “They’re a nuisance because they’re constantly bothering the cattle, and it’s energy the animal has to use to defend itself, energy that is not going into the cattle production.”
Gallinippers can be warded off with repellents that contain DEET. But due to their large size, some might be more tolerant of the compound than smaller biting mosquitoes. “It really is a marvelous mosquito,” Kaufman says. “It is showy.”
To help residents better understand the species, Kaufman and UF/IFAS entomology graduate student Ephraim Ragasa created a document on gallinippers for the department’s “Featured Creatures” website. It’s now available on Electronic Data Information Source, at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in967.
story by by MICHAEL FREEMAN
UF/IFAS photo by MARISOL AMADOR [/emember_protected]