Identity Crisis: The Practical Consequences of Proposed Generic Name Changes for Florida Mosquitoes Formerly Grouped in the Genus Aedes

Aedes in which the subgenus Ochlerotatus was raised to generic level. Following that, two articles were published in BuzzWords to lay out just how these changes would affect mosquito workers in Florida (Darsie 2000; Tabachnick 2000). Then in 2004, Reinert, Harbach and Kitching published Phylogeny and classification of Aedini (Diptera: Culicidae) based on morphological characters of all life stages, which explored higher level relationships within the tribe Aedini and proposed raising the number of genera from 12 to 46 (a "tribe" is a group of related genera within the same subfamily, in this case the subfamily "Culicinae). The 2004 changes would split off three Florida species to the genera Stegomyia and Howardina, a fact noted by Reinert (2005) in BuzzWords. The paper of Reinert et al. (2004) anticipates that additional changes in genus names are likely after other species in the group are more carefully analyzed. For a time line and the "bottom line" for Florida, refer to Table 1.

Table 1. Time line and bottom line for mosquito workers.

Date Publication Author Bottom Line
2000 J. Am. Mosq Control Assoc. Reinert Raises Ochlerotatus to generic rank; primary distinguishing characters are in the male and female genitalia
2000 BuzzWords Darsie albopictus, aegypti, cinereus, and vexans stay in the Aedes; all other Florida Aedes will now be Ochlerotatus
2000 BuzzWords Tabachnick Get used to it!
2004 J. Am. Mosq Control Assoc. Savage & Strickman Suggest use of Aedes as genus and Ochlerotatus as subgenus within Aedes ; "restored to the traditional usage during the interval 1906-2000."
2004 Zool J Linnaean Soc Reinert New classification raising number of genera in Aedini from 12 to 46
2005 BuzzWords Reinert Points Florida readers to the new classification scheme from 2004
2005 BuzzWords Tabachnick "...perhaps the quick acceptance of Ochlerotatus was premature." Stay tuned...
2005 J. Med. Entomol. Edman More research needs to be conducted and authors should maintain the usage of traditional names ( except when the author has taxonomic reasons for not doing so.
2005 J. Med. Entomol. Savage Stable nomenclature needs to be maintained; refrain from making changes based on preliminary data
2005 European SOVE MOTAX group Schaffner & Aranda Adopted a "common position proposal" that is similar to the peer-reviewed journal policies. Their position is to allow use of the former names before Reinert's work (2000, 2004), and to wait for a consensus on major changes before adopting a name change.

In 2004, Savage and Strickman stated that they believed the use of Aedes and Ochlerotatus should be restored to their traditional usage of the time period 1906-2000. Then in 2005 (in response to the changes proposed by Reinert et al. 2004), Savage warned that future studies of Aedini using "different sets of morphological characters or/and molecular data will produce different fragments" that will "lead to a disruption of communication among those interested in mosquito-borne diseases, the destruction of the information system associated with a stable classification, and difficulties in literature search and database management." Tabachnick (2005) stated that "The proposed reclassification of Aedine mosquitoes has sweeping implications with impacts that include a likely increase in confusion in the literature and throughout the discipline of biology."

We believe that too little attention has been paid to the potential of these serial nomenclature changes to generate confusion amongst Florida "rank and file" mosquito control personnel. The potential for confusion is particularly great for new employees attempting to learn basic mosquito biology and identification in order to successfully pass examinations for Florida pesticide applicator licenses. While the research and the debate continues, and the taxonomists and systematists work on this "troublesome" issue (the Greek translation of "Ochlero" is troublesome), what do we do? The field inspectors, the mosquito identifiers, the teacher and trainers, the writers, the public health workers, and all of us who are not taxonomists or systematists, are in limbo. Many of us changed the labels on our pinned specimens, Dr. Richard Darsie changed the keys to the Florida mosquitoes to reflect the rise of Ochlerotatus to generic level (Darsie and Morris 2000), and all of the new employees going through the Dodd Courses and other training classes, learned to use Ochlerotatus for all but 4 of the 22 Florida species formerly grouped under the genus Aedes. None of the Darsie keys incorporate the more recent generic name changes proposed by Reinert et al. (2004).

Authors must refer to the policies of the journals where they want to submit their papers, since many of the peer-reviewed journals have published their policy on names of Aedine mosquito genera and subgenera. In general, the position stated is that more research needs to be conducted and authors should maintain the usage of traditional names ( except when the author has taxonomic reasons for not doing so. For those who are convinced of the elevation of various genera proposed by Reinert (2004), they are asked to include the previous name when first mentioned in the manuscript. Examples: Stegomyia albopicta (=Aedes albopictus, see Reinert et. al 2004); Ochlerotatus triseriatus (=Aedes triseriatus, see Reinert 2000.) The following journals adhere to this policy: The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Annals of Tropical Medicine and Parasitology, Emerging Infectious Diseases, Genetics and Evolution, Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association, Journal of Medical Entomology, Journal of Vector Ecology, Medical and Veterinary Entomology, Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases, and PROMED. See the reference section of this article for the Journal of Medical Entomology policy citation (2005).

But what about the rest of us? How do we teach this during the Dodd Short Courses, during the Advanced ID Course, to new employees, to those taking exams for applicator licenses for Public Health? Dr. Phil Lounibos of the FMEL stressed to mosquito control districts the importance of keeping a collection of voucher specimens from local areas (Lounibos 2000). How many of those in your collection were changed to Ochlerotatus? And how frustrated are you that it could be either Aedes or Ochlerotatus? Should Florida mosquito control personnel stop referring to "Aedes albopictus," and instead call this mosquito "Stegomyia albopicta" as specified by Reinert et al. 2004? Have the naming issues caused confusion in communicating with news reporters or local educators who have access to web materials that may not use the same generic names? Do you have long-term surveillance databases that are now more problematic to update or search because of uncertain nomenclature? Issues such as these are not trivial.

We believe that the Florida mosquito control community needs to actively address the need for consensus on name usage for the "Aedes" group so that we can provide consistent education of our personnel, administrators, and the general public with whom we communicate. Don Shroyer, Roxanne Connelly, Larry Hribar, and Jack Petersen plan to present a series of short, informational talks at the FMCA Fall Meeting in Jacksonville (see p. 1 of this issue of BuzzWords for meeting information). After the background and issues have been described, we would like to start a dialogue with the audience about the desirability of adopting standard guidelines for Florida. We feel that FMCA, FDACS, FMEL, and PHEREC should take the lead on this and develop an unambiguous and easy to understand policy that will guide mosquito professionals in the state of Florida, whether they are trainers, writers, collectors, inspectors, directors, or identifiers.

For references mentioned in this article, and others not specifically cited but related, consult the reference list below. If you have time before the Fall FMCA meeting, read some of these so that you can participate in the discussion. We look forward to your input during the meeting.


  • Black, W. 2004. Learning to use Ochlerotatus is just the beginning. J. Am. Mosq. Control Assoc. 20:215-216.
  • Darsie, R. F., Jr. 2000. A revision to the genus Aedes. BuzzWords. Dec. 2000. p 4-5.
  • Darsie, R. F., Jr. and C. D. Morris. 2000. Keys to the adult females and fourth instar larvae of the mosquitoes of Florida (Diptera: Culicidae). Technical Bulletin of the Florida Mosquito Control Association. Fort Myers, FL. 159 pp.
  • Edman, J. D., Editor-in-Chief and Subject Editors of JME. 2005. Journal policy on names of Aedine mosquito genera and subgenera. J. Med. Entomol. 42(5):511.
  • Lounibos, L. P. 2000. Forms and Vouchers. BuzzWords. Aug/Sep 2000. p 9-10.
  • Lynch Arribalzaga, F. 1891. Dipterologia Argentina. Revista del Museo de la Plata. 1:1-72.
  • Meigen, J. W. 1818. Systematische Beschreihung der bekannten europaischen zweiflugeligen Insekten. Volume 1, Aachen, Germany.
  • Reinert, J. F. 2000. New classification for the composite genus Aedes (Diptera, Culicidae, Aedini), elevation of subgenus Ochlerotatus to generic rank, reclassification of the other subgenera, and notes on certain subgenera and species. J. Am. Mosq. Control Assoc. 16(3):175-188.
  • Reinert, J. F., R. E. Harbach, and I. J. Kitching. 2004. Phylogeny and classification of Aedini (Diptera: Culicidae), based on morphological characters of all life stages. Zool. J. Linn. Soc. 142:289-368.
  • Reinert, J. F. 2005. Changes in names of Florida mosquitoes. BuzzWords. 5(1):3.
  • Reinert, J. F. and R. E. Harbach. 2005. Generic and subgeneric status of aedine mosquito species (Diptera: Culicidae: Aedini) occurring in the Australasian Region. Zootaxa 887: 1-10.
  • Savage, H. M., and D. Strickman. 2004. The genus and subgenus categories within Culicidae and placement of Ochlerotatus as a subgenus of Aedes. J. Am. Mosq. Control Assoc. 20:208- 214.
  • Savage, H. M. 2005. Classification of mosquitoes in Tribe Aedine (Diptera: Culicidae): Paraphylyphobia, and classification versus cladistic analysis. J. Med. Entomol. 42(6):923-927.
  • Tabachnick, W. J. 2000. What's in a name? Aedes to Ochlerotatus. BuzzWords. Dec. 2000. p 6.
  • Tabachnick, W. J. 2005. The name game: thoughts on the proposed reclassification of Aedini. BuzzWords. 5(3):9.

Roxanne Connelly, Associate Professor, UF/IFAS/FMEL
Donald A. Shroyer, Medical Entomologist, IRMCD