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Smithsonian Aids Mosquito Research

Ochlerotatus triseriatus

Ochlerotatus triseriatus, known as the eastern treehole mosquito, is one of 36 known species that can transmit the West Nile virus.

James Gathany, Public Health Image Library


The Smithsonian’s collection of 1.5 million mosquitoes, the world’s largest, is an indispensable reference for scientists researching mosquito-borne diseases—including the West Nile virus that first appeared in the United States in 1999.

U.S. Army scientists from the Walter Reed Biosystematics Unit curate the Museum’s collection because of their interest in reducing the number of non-combat casualties caused by mosquitoes. Mosquitoes can also carry malaria, yellow fever, and dengue fever, as well as some forms of encephalitis.

Culex quinquefasciatus

Culex quinquefasciatus
USA (Southern house mosquito)

This is one of thousands of boxes that house the Smithsonian mosquito collection at the Museum Support Center in Suitland, Maryland. There are about 3,500 known mosquito species, and new ones are found every year.

Dr. Dina Fonseca

Smithsonian Research Scientist Dr. Dina Fonseca tracks the spread of disease-bearing mosquitoes across the landscape as well as the hybrid forms that occur when different species mate. She identifies mosquitoes by their distinct DNA signatures. She is currently looking at mosquitoes that transmit avian malaria and the West Nile virus. For Fonseca, insects are a great way to study evolutionary ecology.


Asian tiger mosquito larva

Scientific illustrations, like this one of an Asian tiger mosquito larva, help scientists identify mosquito species. Although many adult species look very similar, the larvae and molted skins have distinctive features.

Illustration by:
Tania Litwak

To learn more about Science and Collections visit the following website:
Department of Systematic Biology Division of Entomology

Past Science News exhibits


"Science in the News" features Natural History issues in the news media and interesting objects from the Museum's collections. We will frequently introduce new issues that come from our research, collections, exhibits, and projects.