Question: Is it my imagination or are the mosquitoes bigger and meaner than normal?

Answer: In 1995 the first Asian Tiger Mosquito was detected in Monmouth County. Since then they have made their presence known in most of the southern part of the state. From collections in our area it is safe to assume this mosquito is well established and will be difficult to control.

The Asian Tiger Mosquito is known as a container breeder because it lays its eggs in any area that contains a small amount of water. A quarter of an inch of water is enough to help complete its life cycle. In its natural habitat it would lay its eggs in tree holes, and it continues to do so to some extent.

The males feed on plant juices and do not bite. But the female needs blood to help the eggs develop. The eggs are attached to the sides of containers during dry periods waiting for rain to raise the water levels. When this occurs, the eggs hatch and the mosquito develops from larva to adult in the water. The larva feed on debris and bacteria in the water. Approximately 10 to 14 days from egg hatching, the adult mosquitoes emerge.

This mosquito is easy to identify by its color pattern. There are bright white markings on a black background, hence its name "Tiger." The legs are striped black and white, and the body has a white stripe down the center. Most other types of mosquitoes are most active during dawn and dusk, but this pest will bite equally during the day. Limiting your outside activities to avoid these times will decrease your chances of being bitten. The Asian Tiger Mosquito may not be more aggressive than other pests, but it is a persistent one.

To reduce your risk of being bitten, control the number of their breeding places. Remove any water-retaining vessels, including bird baths and pet bowls. Roof gutters should be kept clean of leaves to prevent water from collecting. When outside, wear light colored clothing and long sleeves and socks when possible.

If you choose to use a repellent, one containing DEET is recommended. You will notice different concentrations ranging from 4 percent to 100 percent. Adequate protection for adults can be obtained from products containing 10 percent to 35 percent. Higher concentrations do not indicate better protection, only longer protection. The efficacy of a repellant also will vary with the individual. Always follow label guidelines carefully.

Mona Bawgus is a certified master gardener and consumer horticulturist with Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Atlantic County. Write to her c/o Rutgers Cooperative Extension, 6260 Old Harding Highway, Mays Landing, N.J. 08330. Email: bawgus_mona@aclink.org