Creature Feature

Yellow Fever Mosquitoes

The yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti) originated in Africa, where it evolved from an ancestor that still exists there today. Its ancestor prefers to lay eggs in natural tree holes and to feed on non-human animals. At some point, the yellow fever mosquito became domesticated, breeding in artificial containers close to humans and preferring human hosts. This domestication allowed their introduction into the New World via European ships leaving West Africa with slaves and containers of drinking water also holding immature yellow fever mosquitoes.

Yellow fever existed in Africa before the Europeans arrived and followed them into the New World in the 1600s. Epidemics killed thousands of people through the early 1900s until it was discovered that the yellow fever mosquito was the disease vector. Afterwards, mosquito eradication campaigns and a vaccine developed in the 1930s virtually eliminated yellow fever from the United States. Like yellow fever, dengue, chikungunya and Zika viruses originated in Africa and circulated in non-human animals before adapting to human transmission. Once adapted, they quickly spread and caused epidemics in other parts of the word. Unlike yellow fever, vaccines for these diseases have yet to be developed.

The yellow fever mosquito is the most efficient vector of dengue, chikungunya and Zika viruses because it prefers to breed near and feed on humans. Removing standing water on properties reduces yellow fever mosquito populations. Otherwise, insect growth regulators (IGRs) labeled for mosquitoes can be applied to standing water in items such as planter saucers, bird baths and gutters to prevent larvae from developing into adults. Apply liquid residual insecticides to adult mosquito resting sites under shady and secluded areas such as foliage, eaves and decks. Backpack mist blowers apply these products for adult mosquito management most efficiently.

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Since immature mosquito stages are confined to aquatic environments, larval management is more targeted and often more effective than adult management. After completing this course, you should be able to understand the basic mosquito life cycle, identify the types of breeding sites, recognize differences in larval behavior and surveillance methods, and choose the most appropriate larval treatment method.

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