Frequently asked questions
Find out more about the science and aims of the ‘Zika Mozzie Seeker’ project by checking out the frequently asked questions below. These will be updated and expanded throughout the project as we receive your feedback.
What does a ‘Zika or dengue mozzie’ look like?
Images of female ‘Zika mozzies’: Aedes aegypti (left) and Aedes albopictus (right).
We need a microscope to clearly see the difference between mosquito species. ‘Zika mozzie’ adults are the same size, and have striped legs, like many other mosquitoes. Adult female Aedes aegypti have a distinctive lyre-shape pattern on their back but may easily be confused with the other local species (eg Aedes notoscriptus). Aedes albopictus adults have a single white stripe on their back. Wrigglers (larvae) are much more difficult to find because they grow in a wide variety of containers that hold water. There are microscopic differences between ‘Zika mozzie’ larvae and other species.
In Australia, ‘Zika mozzies’ currently only occur in Queensland. Aedes aegypti species can be found inside many of the cities and towns, especially North Queensland. Aedes albopictus is found in island communities of the Torres Strait, following invasion in 2004-05.
Both species lay drought resistant eggs just above water in containers or junk. These containers are around homes and businesses, such as unscreened water tanks, bird baths, discarded bottles or tyres, or flower pot bases. After rising water reaches the eggs, they hatch and the wrigglers (larvae) grow through four stages and become ‘tumblers’ (pupae). The adults emerge from pupae and like to hide in cool, shaded places in and around our homes.
Only the females of both species bite humans and have the potential to spread diseases, such as Zika or Dengue virus. Unlike most mosquitos they are active in daylight hours. Female Ae. aegypti are quiet and sneaky, biting mostly inside buildings. Ae. albopictus are annoying, painful biters in outdoor areas. Male mosquitos don’t bite.
The ‘Zika Mozzie Seeker’ project will help increase our knowledge of the distribution of Zika and dengue mozzies in the Mackay area.
Learn about common mosquitoes in Australia (thanks to QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute)
Why are we asking you to set mosquito egg traps in your yard?
‘Zika mozzies’ don’t fly far from breeding sites – up to 200m – so finding them can be extremely difficult. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.
For effective monitoring in large towns, we need to place egg traps in a wide range of locations to understand their numbers and spread. A good way to achieve this is to place egg traps (ovitraps) in lots of urban yards.
The help of our community is important – we need traps in as many yards as possible, so please get involved if you live in the Mackay region.
What is special about the DNA…
The method allows scientists to quickly check large numbers of freshly hatched larvae (wrigglers) from mosquito eggs (up to 5,000 in one sample) for the particular DNA of any Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Previously, scientists had to grow and painstakingly examine each under a microscope.
Read the full research report into the DNA testing method (called Rapid Surveillance for Vector Presence or ‘RSVP’)
Who can take part in the project?
Anyone in the Mackay Regional Council area can take part in the project.
What is ‘citizen science’?
Citizen science is when local people take part in scientific research, especially collecting data about their own community or environment.
The ‘Zika Mozzie Seeker’ project is one of Australia’s first health-based citizen science projects. We’re looking for members of the public to collect mosquito eggs using traps in their backyards so we can test the DNA.
For details about ‘Zika Mozzie Seeker’ as a citizen science project, please see the Atlas of Living Australia’s Biocollect website.
How can I find out more about Zika and Dengue viruses?
Dengue fever is a short viral illness with symptoms like a severe case of flu. Dengue virus is not always present in Australia, which means the virus is not normally circulating in Queensland, unless someone brings it into the country and is bitten by local dengue mosquitoes.
More information about Dengue fever is available on the Queensland Health website.
Zika virus can cause a short illness like Dengue fever, but milder. However, there are possible risks to unborn babies if a pregnant woman is infected with Zika virus. So far no cases of locally-acquired Zika virus have been reported in Queensland and Zika is not known to be present in local mosquitoes.
More information about Zika is available on the Queensland Health website and Australian Government Department of Health website.
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