Sabethes: Jewel Mosquitoes That May Be Beautiful Disease Carriers

Sabethes mosquitoes are beautiful to look at. The females have an iridescent shine and attractive, furry legs. This species of vector mosquito is found in South and Central America. Its natural beauty makes it look harmless. But, like other mosquitoes, it can deliver a bite that carries deadly diseases. It is the carrier of the sylvatic yellow fever virus.

Sabathes on a finger

The Tropical Mosquito

The Sabethes mosquito is very aloof. Photographing them needs patience, pain, and planning, especially in the humidity and heat of the Amazon rainforest. This tiny insect can respond right away to changes in light and movements. Using a flash is not ideal because of this.

The Price of Having the Sabethes Mosquito Around

The existence of the Sabethes species makes it difficult to accept that something so beautiful can be a carrier of diseases. It can carry different viruses. This mosquito also has some unique behaviors.

Female having a blood meal
Female having a blood meal

The Sabethes mosquito is poorly misunderstood. These attractive mosquitoes do pose a risk to your health. Scientists were able to capture specimens. They discovered that each mosquito can carry many flaviviruses South America has endemic Yellow Fever. Studies show that Sabethes species carry yellow fever between rhesus macaques. Researchers found out that the risk of transmitting this disease is very low. But to be safe, you must have a yellow fever vaccine before you go to South or Central America.

The Disease

Sabethes mosquitoes carry the St. Louis encephalitis virus in Panama. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine or treatment for this disease. The symptoms are mild or non-existent. But it can progress into extreme neurological symptoms. It can result in permanent disability or even death.

St. Louis encephalitis virus from Sabethes
St. Louis encephalitis virus from Sabethes

Also known as the Ilhéus virus, the St. Louis encephalitis virus is a pathogen that can cause terrible epidemics as an emergent disease in the future. The symptoms are often mild respiratory or gastrointestinal complaints. The symptoms in the nervous system can develop into encephalitis.

Mating Behavior

The Sabethes has deep blue-colored leg paddles. Both male and female mosquitoes have them. This is a unique train among this species. Scientists noticed a courting behavior in these mosquitoes before they mate. A research team at Ohio State University documented that male mosquitoes start a series of movements before and during mating. The males often use their paddles during mating. A choosy female usually rejects the male. This means that the female mosquitoes choose their mates well.

The scientists removed the paddles of some males and females. The paddle-less males did not have any issue inseminating the females. But the paddle-less females did not appear to be attractive to the males. The scientists noticed that the males did not even try to align themselves with the paddle-less females.

Egg-Laying Behavior

Female Sabethes mosquitoes have a unique egg-laying behavior as well. Scientists discovered Sabethes eggs in water-filled tree cavities. The entrances of these cavities are small holes. Females detect these holes. When one does, she will release an egg on the tip of her long abdomen. Then, the female will fling the egg with a jerk. The flinging will land the egg safely inside the small cavity. Scientists tested the accuracy of the female Sabethes. These females never miss.

Female Sabethes looking for a hole in a tree for egg laying
Female Sabethes looking for a hole in a tree for egg laying

The Sabethes mosquito is a unique and beautiful mosquito, but it carries a deadly disease called sylvatic yellow fever. Even if it is attractive, you should still protect yourself from the bite of a female Sabethes. The diversity of mosquitoes seems to be enormous. There could be more undiscovered new mosquitoes out there awaiting discovery.