Yellow Fever mosquitoes aren't new to Las Cruces or to the United States. These mosquitoes came to America hundreds of years ago, creating stable populations mostly across the middle, southern and southwestern regions. They peak during the monsoon season.
Recently, they have been migrating north.
"Over the last several years they started moving north and three years ago they reached Albuquerque. The mosquito population exploded and infested all the neighborhoods," said Immo Hansen, New Mexico State University biology professor. "We have been witnessing these tropical species expanding their distribution range north over the last decade by hundreds and hundreds of miles."
Hansen has been studying the Yellow Fever mosquito, also known as Aedes aegypti, for 20 years. He researches new ways to stop the mosquito population from proliferating and how best to protect humans against them.
Yellow Fever mosquitoes are aggressive, exclusively hunt humans and can carry a number of diseases. Hansen calls mosquitoes "the most dangerous animal on earth."
"They are definitely one of the more aggressive species that we have," Hansen said. "I don't think the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes themselves right now are more aggressive than they were before, there are just more of them."
Every year mosquitoes return in southwestern New Mexico, spread in late spring and peak during the monsoon season. By winter, they are gone.
"We don't see them in the winter, Hansen said. "The first ones pop up in April, May and June. When the monsoons start, the population just explodes and that's where we are right now."
Hansen has tested numerous types of mosquito repellents over the years in the wind tunnel at NMSU. Several are effective but Hansen emphasizes that repellents with DEET in them rank at the top.
"There are a couple of devices that we tested that work really well," Hansen said. "Anything from Thermacell is actually very effective for outdoor use. The same is true for the "OFF!" clip-on device. They were the first devices we tested that actually worked and had had a good effect."
Hansen's lab is involved in collaborations with industry to test new repellents and devices. "My lab just had some visitors coming from the East Coast that brought another device that looks very promising. We're going to test it in our wind tunnel here."
Standard mosquito protection includes dumping any standing water on your property, staying inside at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active and wearing mosquito repellents that are proven effective.
One of Hansen's students created a poster available for download with tips to help people protect themselves against mosquitoes.