The Aedes Albopictus mosquito (Asian Tiger Mosquito) which transmits the...

The Aedes Albopictus mosquito (Asian Tiger Mosquito) which transmits the Chikungunya virus. (December, 2005 file photo) Credit: Getty Images

Vic and Carolyn D'Amore's Hauppauge yard has become home in recent months to one of the most aggressive mosquitoes ever to take flight.

The Asian tiger mosquito is a tiny pest with distinctive black and white markings that bites in the daytime. Most mosquitoes bite from dusk to dawn.

"They're horrible. I hate them," said Carolyn D'Amore, 55, who has no idea how or when the bloodsucking insects arrived. The D'Amores said they have no standing water around their home.

She has abandoned gardening and other backyard activities. When she ventures outside, D'Amore wears a raincoat -- the only clothing the flying tigers can't pierce, she says. If she is bitten, large welts develop on her skin, her husband, Vic D'Amore, 62, said, adding: "Me? I just scratch a lot."

A few years ago, there were no Asian tiger mosquitoes on Long Island. Now they're flourishing, experts say.

Entomologist Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, of Cornell's Cooperative Extension in Babylon, considers the insect a formidable foe. "It's so widespread, eradication probably isn't feasible at this point," she said.

The mosquito, native to Southeast Asia, was christened "tiger" because of its bite. Its saliva contains proteins that can cause a potent reaction in some people.

Experts say the insects started their American invasion in 1986, arriving in Houston aboard a container ship from Asia.

"They spread north and east from there," said Dr. Scott Campbell, chief of the arthropod disease laboratory in Suffolk County's health department.

Campbell has twice supervised tiger mosquito trapping on the D'Amore property.

"It'll take a couple of weeks of 40-degree nights to knock this population down," he said. "The cold weather will start to take its toll and kill the weaker individuals first."

Nationwide, tiger mosquitoes transmit West Nile and eastern equine encephalitis viruses.

In Southeast Asia, they're responsible for dengue and chikungunya fevers. Chikungunya has periodically emerged in the United States, mostly among travelers arriving from India. Recently, dengue outbreaks have been reported in southern Florida, Texas and Hawaii.

Campbell said none of those viruses has hit New York so far, and the tiger mosquitoes trapped in the D'Amores' yard are free of West Nile and encephalitis.

Cornell entomologist Prasit Deewatthanawong cites climate change as one reason the pests are thriving outside Asia.

Winters are warming everywhere, he said.

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