Daniel H. Peach1*
and Peter Belton1
1Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, V5A 1S6, Canada
* Corresponding author: [email protected]
Mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae) are highly diverse, with over 3500 extant species worldwide. At least 33 species occur in the Yukon Territory. Correct identification of mosquitoes, as well as knowledge of their ecology, natural history, blood-feeding preferences, and ability to vector pathogens are essential for effective control measures and mosquito research. The Yukon is home to unending hordes of mosquitoes, and here we provide a comprehensive guide to their identification and biology. This guide may be of interest to students of Yukon natural history, mosquito-borne diseases, and wetland ecology, as well as mosquito control professionals, and is formatted for convenient printing and use.
Aedes communis (de Geer) (photo by Dan Peach)
The Yukon Territory is home to a variety of different eco-districts, from towering mountains and moist Pacific Maritime conditions in the southwest to coastal plains and Arctic conditions in the north (Smith et al., 2004 ). Mean annual temperatures are below freezing, with mean winter temperatures of around -20 oC and mean temperatures during July, the warmest month, of 10-15 oC (Oswald and Jenyk, 1977). However, The Yukon is a land of extremes. Daily temperature fluctuations of 30 oC are not uncommon (Smith et al. 2004) and the lowest recorded temperature in North America, -63 oC, is from the Territory (Thomson 1958). The Yukon Territory is also home to seemingly unending hordes of mosquitoes. Some of these belong to species that are widespread and abundant, easily surviving cold winters and thriving during brief summer conditions, while others are found in low numbers only in certain habitats, at the very northern margin of their distribution. In the last review of the mosquitoes of the Yukon (Belton & Belton, 1990) a total of 28 species were known to have been recorded from the Territory, with an additional 4 species that probably occur there. Since this review two additional territorial records have been made and three of the species that were thought to exist in the Yukon have been confirmed (Peach 2017, 2018; Peach and Poirier 2020). Changes in the distribution records of several species in British Columbia indicate that there may be additional species in the territory that should be considered when identifying specimens. The purpose of this paper is to provide an updated list of mosquitoes known from the Yukon, bringing together the scattered literature on all 33 species known from that territory. We also provide keys to the adult females of Yukon mosquitoes, including those of an additional 5 species that are expected to occur there.
While many of the mosquito-borne viruses found in southern Canada have not been reported from the Yukon, there are two endemic arboviruses vectored by mosquitoes: snowshoe hare virus (SSHV) and Northway virus (NORV). SSHV is an Orthobunyavirus of the California encephalitis virus (CEV) serogroup primarily found in snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus) and arctic ground squirrels (Citellus undulatus) (McLean et al., 1972). Aedes communis is thought to be the primary vector of SSHV, though Ae. nigripes, Ae. hexodontus, and Cs. inornata may also be vectors, and the virus has been isolated from a variety of other species (McLean et al., 1972, 1974; Ritter & Feltz, 1974; McLean & Lester, 1984). SSHV can infect humans and livestock and while clinical cases are rare, they do occur (Heath et al., 1989; Meier-Stephenson et al., 2007; Goff et al., 2012; Lau et al., 2017). NORV was originally isolated from mosquitoes in Alaska (Ritter & Feltz, 1974) and has since been found in the Yukon and Northwest Territories (McLean et al., 1977, McLean et al., 1979a, McLean et al. 1979b). Antibodies for NORV have been found in humans and large ungulates (Walters et al., 1999), but no clinical infections have been reported. Western equine encephalitis virus (WEEV) and eastern equine encephalitis (EEEV) have not been reported from the Yukon (McLean et al., 1974; Artsob, 1990), though Burton & McLintock (1970) did find serum neutralizing antibodies for WEEV in caribou (Rangifer tarandus) in the Northwest Territories. West Nile virus (WNV) and St. Louis encephalitis virus (SLEV) have both been detected in migratory birds in Alaska (Pedersen et al., 2016), and may similarly be present in the Yukon. While mosquito transmission of these pathogens seems unlikely due to the short duration of the growing season, with respect to WNV some climate models predict increasing prevalence in adjacent areas (Chen et al., 2012) which may also indicate increased risk in the Yukon.
Most of the records in the Yukon are the results of collecting in the early to mid 20th century (Dyar, 1919, 1920, 1921; Freeman, 1952; Curtis, 1953), with some sporadic efforts made up to the late 20th century (Nelson 1977; Wood et al. 1979; McLean et al. 1981; McLean & Lester 1984; Wood 1989 pers. comm. in Belton & Belton 1990). However, there is not just a paucity of collecting records but also unevenness in their distribution. Outside of the main transportation corridors most of the Yukon is inaccessible other than on foot, by canoe, or by air, and many of the areas that can be reached by automobile are only accessible on rough, pitted gravel roads. Due to this lack of access most collecting has been done from easily-accessible locations, often close to population centres.
There is a dearth of information on the bionomics of Yukon mosquitoes, and western and northern mosquitoes in general. We have had to rely on information from a variety of other areas to provide a background on some of the species in this guide. While information from adjacent areas such as Alaska or Northern British Columbia is likely comparable, much information comes from much farther afield and one should be aware this may not be reflective of western/northern populations of even the same species.
Nomenclature used here follows Wilkerson et al. (2015) with respect to generic names within the tribe Aedini, and subgeneric names are included to show the earlier name changes found in Darsie & Ward (2005). We also follow Darsie & Ward (2005) in considering Aedes (Ochlerotatus) idahoensis a subspecies of Aedes (Ochlerotatus) spencerii.
For additional information see guides to all Canadian mosquito species by Wood et al. (1979) and Thielman and Hunter (2007), to the mosquitoes of British Columbia by Belton (1983), to the mosquitoes of Alaska by Gjullin et al. (1961), and to the mosquitoes of North America, north of Mexico, by Darsie & Ward (2005).
General Tips for Mosquito Identification
Watch out for missing scales or setae by checking for empty pits where they should be. Northern specimens seem to have reduced abundance of pale scales, so check for these very carefully in steps that use them. Take care when collecting specimens to keep them as undamaged as possible. The best specimens are adults reared directly from pupae. Characteristics are in hierarchical order of reliability.
Table 1: Checklist of mosquitoes of the Yukon. †Unrecorded but expected to occur in the Yukon.
Aedes (Aedes) cinereus Meigen
Aedes (Aedimorphus) vexans (Meigen)
Aedes (Ochlerotatus) campestris Dyar and Knab
Aedes (Ochlerotatus) canadensis (Theobald)
Aedes (Ochlerotatus) cataphylla Dyar
Aedes (Ochlerotatus) aboriginis Dyar†
Aedes (Ochlerotatus) churchillensis Ellis and Brust†
Aedes (Ochlerotatus) communis (de Geer)
Aedes (Ochlerotatus) decticus Howard, Dyar, and Knab
Aedes (Ochlerotatus) diantaeus Howard, Dyar, and Knab
Aedes (Ochlerotatus) euedes Howard, Dyar, and Knab
Aedes (Ochlerotatus) excrucians (Walker)
Aedes (Ochlerotatus) fitchii (Felt and Young)
Aedes (Ochlerotatus) flavescens (Müller)
Aedes (Ochlerotatus) hexodontus Dyar
Aedes (Ochlerotatus) impiger (Walker)
Aedes (Ochlerotatus) implicatus Vockeroth
Aedes (Ochlerotatus) intrudens Dyar
Aedes (Ochlerotatus) mercurator Dyar
Aedes (Ochlerotatus) nigripes (Zetterstedt)
Aedes (Ochlerotatus) nigromaculis (Ludlow)†
Aedes (Ochlerotatus) pionips Dyar
Aedes (Ochlerotatus) provocans (Walker)†
Aedes (Ochlerotatus) pullatus (Coquillett)
Aedes (Ochlerotatus) punctor (Kirby)
Aedes (Ochlerotatus) riparius Dyar and Knab
Aedes (Ochlerotatus) spencerii ssp. spencerii (Theobald)
Aedes (Ochlerotatus) sticticus (Meigen)
Aedes (Ochlerotatus) ventrovittis Dyar†
Anopheles (Anopheles) earlei Vargas
Coquillettidia (Coquillettidia) perturbans (Walker)
Culex (Culex) tarsalis Coquillett
Culex (Neoculex) territans Walker
Culiseta (Culiseta) alaskaensis (Ludlow)
Culiseta (Culiseta) impatiens (Walker)
Culiseta (Culiseta) incidens (Thomson)
Culiseta (Culiseta) inornata (Williston)
Culiseta (Culicella) morsitans (Theobald)
We thank Karen Needham of the UBC Beaty Biodiversity Museum for her assistance in collecting and accessing specimens, as well as Catherine Scott and Elton Ko for assistance testing this guide. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.
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