Common mullein and Asian tiger mosquitoes

Common mullein

There seems to be a bumper crop of Common or Great Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) in open areas this summer. Native to Europe, North Africa, and Asia, common mullein was introduced throughout the world in the 1800’s due to its many medicinal and industrial uses.

This plant is found throughout the United States, and it quickly seeds into areas where bare, exposed soil is present. Common mullein is one of the first plants to occupy areas ravaged by forest fires. Despite its opportunistic nature, this plant does not tolerate plant competition very well, so it is not considered to be a serious agricultural pest throughout most of its range.

Common mullein is a biennial plant, with two seasons of growth. During the first season, it develops a rosette of leaves that lie close to the ground. Its second year, the leaves enlarge, and a long stalk emerges that contains densely grouped yellow flowers and reaches up to 8 feet in height. Each of the flowers opens in the morning, then closes at dusk. The flower-bearing stems are present from June until the end of August.

Common mullein

(Courtesy photo)

The mullein plant has a number of fine hairs that impart a silvery cast to the plant. Extracts from the mullein plant have been used for many medicines that treat skin and breathing conditions, and reduce tumors in certain cancers. The plant also has chemicals that are used in organic insecticides and herbicides. The bright yellow flowers are used to produce green and yellow dyes. The dried stems, dipped in wax, were widely used as torches in years gone by.

Article by Mike Kay, Forester for Frederick County

Asian tiger mosquitoes

The wet weather has brought out more mosquitoes than we usually see.

Asian tiger mosquito

(Courtesy photo)

A larger mosquito, the Asian tiger mosquito (Stegomyia albopicta), is becoming the one that many in Frederick County are trying to swat. About twice the size of our common variety mosquito which comes out around dusk or dawn, tiger mosquitoes are active throughout the day.

A native to Southeast Asia, the import of Asian goods to the US has brought this invasive insect, as well. If a black mosquito has white stripes, it is the Asian Tiger mosquito.

As is the case with all mosquitoes, only the females bite. The males are a little smaller than the females, with minor variation in the striping pattern. The females lay about 100 eggs after a blood meal, and can produce eggs several times during their two week to one month adult lifespan.

More versatile with regard to habitat than our native variety, the tiger mosquito breeds in wet areas, with eggs hatching in even as little as an ounce of water. However, they do not fly far from their breeding areas, mainly staying within 200 yards of their breeding sites.

Quicker to bite, this mosquito is hard to swat before extracting its meal from unsuspecting people or animals. Insect repellant is a good investment when outdoors with mosquitoes present, as the Asian Tiger mosquito can transmit diseases such as West Nile virus to humans, and heartworm to dogs.

Eliminating standing water near your home, even very small amounts, will help reduce bothersome populations.

Article by Tom Anderson FCFCDB member

Nature Notes for 8/9/2015