News - GLOBE Observer
Are Old Tires New Mosquito Condos? Join the GLOBE Mission Mosquito “Spare Tire Blitz” this March through June 2022!
Did you know that used tires are a prime habitat for mosquitoes? It’s as if they have a welcome mat out for mosquito moms that say, “This is a great place to lay your eggs.” Tires make perfect insect “condos,” so if you ever see a pile of tires in a yard or business, take a peek inside the tires – you might just locate multiple mosquito “nurseries” with wiggling larvae, living in the water that pools inside tires after rain.
Why are tires so attractive to mosquito moms? Container-breeding mosquitoes are on the lookout for small, safe pools of water to lay their eggs, and soft, heavy tires fit the bill. Tires are especially attractive because of tire coloring and the shade they provide. Mosquito moms are attracted to dark colors (this is also why wearing light colors is one way to reduce mosquito bites). They also look for shady sites to lay their eggs. Shade keeps the water from getting too hot and destroying the eggs, while simultaneously protecting the pool from evaporating before the immature mosquitoes emerge as adults. The tire sidewalls provide built-in shade for the water pools in the tire. Organic materials such as leaves, grass, and tiny organisms collect in abandoned tires and ensure a source of food for the young. In spring, the warmer water and air temperatures in and around sunlit tires provide a favorable microhabitat associated with early season mosquito emergence.
Scientists have been aware of tires as mosquito breeding sites for a long time. At the end of WWII, stockpiled tires from the military effort were returned to the U.S. from the Pacific, with “mosquito hitchhikers” like the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) breeding inside. Used tires imported from southeast Asia during the 1970s are also responsible for establishing the invasive Asian tiger mosquito in the United States. More recently, another invasive species, Aedes japonicus, made its way to the U.S. via the international tire trade. Native and non-native mosquitoes continue to be dispersed around the U.S. as tires are relocated or moved around for either selling or disposal.
The key to this hitchhiking ability is the mosquito egg. Mosquito eggs are very resilient and can even withstand drying out. In this state, the eggs can remain attached on the inside surface of the tire for a long time – long enough for a new or old tire to travel from one country or state to another. There, the eggs develop into adults, who emerge, mate and colonize the new area.
Scientists are now studying the mosquito larvae breeding sites found in old tires and hope you will use the Mosquito Habitat Mapper and Land Cover tools within The GLOBE Program’s GLOBE Observer app to contribute to this vital research. And remember, after you make your observations, dump out any pools of water whenever possible!
How you can take part: Join the Mosquito Spare Tire Blitz! Between March and June, citizen scientists assist scientists like Dan Killingsworth (who is the Director of Operations for EnSec Pest Control, Pensacola, FL) by using GLOBE Observer to identify where tires are or could be used as breeding sites. Participants will document the mosquito tire habitat by submitting a photo using the Mosquito Habitat Mapper tool within the app and follow up with the Land Cover tool to provide photos of the tire location.
You are also invited to watch the March GLOBE Mission Mosquito Webinar, where you can learn more details about this year’s Spare Tire Blitz. And who knows? If you are in the Northern Hemisphere, you might just find the first spring hatches of larvae in your area! Join the free webinar on 10 March. Learn more about GLOBE Mission Mosquito.
Dr. Russanne Low is a senior scientist with the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, Arlington, VA, and serves as the Science Lead for The GLOBE Program’s GLOBE Observer Mosquito Habitat Mapper, a citizen science data collection and analysis tool used in more than 74 countries.
Dan Killingsworth is Director of Operations for EnSec Pest Control, Pensacola, FL. His work focuses on developing integrated pest management and bio-control strategies for public health vector control. As a beekeeper for over 25 years, protecting pollinators and beneficial insects is at the forefront of his mitigation research.