Mosquitoes in Mississippi - Introduction and Background

by Jerome Goddard

2 August 2010

There has never been a systematic statewide study of mosquitoes in Mississippi.  Various authors have reported mosquito collection records as a result of surveys of military installations in the state and/or public health malaria inspections and localized surveys.  The first published mosquito records from Mississippi were Aedes grossbecki, Ae. thibaulti, Ae. fulvus-pallens (as bimaculatus), Ae. vexans, Culex erraticus, and Culistea inornata (Dyar 1922).  Five years later there was a malaria vector (anopheline) survey which reported An. crucians, An. punctipennis An. pseudopunctipennis, and An. quadrimaculatus (Carley and Balfour 1929).  Another malaria study in the Mississippi Delta reported An. quadrimaculatus, An. punctipennis, and An. crucians (Perez 1930).  A State Board of Health publication discussed Anopheles population densities in Mississippi, but reported no specific species names (Bradley et al. 1940).  During the 1940’s several military-related studies in Mississippi provided further records of mosquitoes (King and Bradley 1941, King et al. 1943, Middlekauff and Carpenter 1944, Carpenter et al. 1945, Miles and Rings 1946, Michener 1947, Rings and Richmond 1953).  The most complete work revealed 47 species from Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg in south Mississippi (Michener 1947).  In addition, a study on chemical control of rice field mosquitoes in 1952-53 in Bolivar County mentioned Ps. columbiae (as confinnis) (Mathis et al. 1954).  These earlier works were later summarized (King et al. 1960), stating that there was a total of 53 species occurring in Mississippi.

In 1969 the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted mosquito surveillance in Hancock County as part of a pest monitoring program and reported 10 relatively common species (USDA 1969).  Also, in the late 1960’s, a seasonality study of mosquitoes in Hancock County was conducted which recorded a total of 33 species (Harden and Poolson 1969).  Almost all mosquito records from the 1970’s, 1980’s and early 1990’s resulted from collections made by U.S. Air Force personnel at installations in Harrison and Lowndes Counties (USAF 1971, 1975, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980b, a, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1988), although no voucher specimens are known for these surveys.  Air Force records from 1989 show the first known presence of the introduced species Ae. albopictus in Mississippi (USAF 1989).  Results of an unpublished master’s thesis demonstrated species composition and seasonality of mosquitoes in Clay, Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties from March 1972 – November 1973 (Fulton 1974).  Fortunately, representatives from all of his collections were verified by Richard F. Darsie Jr., with specimens deposited in the Mississippi Entomological Museum (MEM), Mississippi State University, Starkville, MS.  Some of the most unusual findings in that study included Anopheles walkeri, Orthopodomyia alba, Culex pilosus and Culex peccator.  Research on the pitcher-plant mosquito, Wyeomyia smithii, led to collections of this species from George County (Bradshaw and Lounibos 1977, Bradshaw 1983).  In 1982, a small mosquito survey was conducted at Mays Lake in Jackson, MS, to determine relative abundance and species composition there and the authors recorded 13 species in five genera from March through September (Nelson et al. 1985).  In the late 1990’s, arbovirus research in northeast Mississippi resulted in a report of 23 mosquito species from Tishomingo County (Cupp et al. 2004). 

Unusual mosquito records. Several unusual records of mosquitoes have been reported for Mississippi.  King included a record of two Ae. stimulans from Electric Mills, MS in Kemper County (King et al. 1960).  The occurrence of this species several hundred miles south of its recorded range is unexpected; however, voucher specimens are available and the record has been confirmed (Goddard and Harrison 2005).  A collection record of Ae. dorsalis, which occurs primarily in the western U.S., was reported from Como, MS (Miles and Rings 1946).  Although the collection was identified by Alan Stone, a culicid specialist, no voucher specimen is available to confirm this record (Goddard and Harrison 2005).  Psorophora pygmea was reported from Horn Island, MS (Harden et al. 1967), but no expert made the identification and no voucher specimen has been seen to confirm this record.  Since this species is restricted in the USA to the Florida Keys, the record must be deleted (Goddard and Harrison 2005).  There is one record of Ae. nigromaculis from Harrison County, MS (USAF 1990).  The distribution of Ae. nigromaculis borders the western edge of Mississippi (Darsie and Ward 2005), so finding this species in Mississippi is possible.  Nonetheless, we have no voucher specimen and no positive verification of this species in Mississippi.

Recent mosquito work in Mississippi.  In 2000, the Mississippi Department of Health received a West Nile surveillance grant from the Centers for Disease Control that provided funding for more intensive mosquito collecting and West Nile testing in selected areas around the state.  As a result, several new state records for mosquitoes have been found.  One was Mansonia titillans, recorded from Madison, Copiah and Rankin counties, and another was Aedes trivittatus from Marshall County (Goddard and Harrison 2005).  The most recent new record for Mississippi is Culex coronator, typically occurring in Central and South America, but collected in November of 2004 from Copiah County (Varnado et al. 2005).   Previously, this species was only collected in the U.S. from Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. In addition, intensive searches/collections have been made during the last five years to locate Aedes atropalpus (Coquillett) and Aedes j. japonicus (Theobald) in Mississippi.  To date, these two species have not been found in Mississippi.  Many gaps remain in our knowledge of Mississippi mosquitoes. 


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