Description: Mosquitoes are distinctive from flies because of their long “stinger” and scales on the back and veins of their wings. Mosquitoes have slender bodies with long legs. While their size varies by species, most mosquitoes are smaller than 15 millimeters in length and weigh less than 2.5 milligrams. Although mosquitoes appear fragile, they are extremely resilient insects that prey on a variety of animals.

Biology: Male mosquitoes feed on plant nectar alone, while females extract the blood of hosts in order to develop and nourish eggs. Females are capable of flying for miles if necessary and can lay up to 300 eggs at a time. After she lays a batch of eggs, the female will seek another host for a blood meal.

Most mosquitoes lay their eggs directly into water. Others lay their eggs near bodies of water but not within them. The length of the mosquito life cycle varies between species and is dependent upon environmental conditions such as temperature and moisture. However, the life cycle of all mosquitoes is comprised of the egg, larva, pupa and adult stages. Larvae and pupae cannot survive without water. If a water source evaporates before the larvae and pupae within it transform into adult mosquitoes, those young will die.

Eggs will hatch into larvae within 24 to 48 hours. Larvae soon grow to become approximately 1/4-inch in length. Most larvae breathe through air tubes. Larger larvae can be seen floating just above the surface of infested waters.
Within seven to 10 days, larvae enter the pupal stage. Pupae are also visible upon the surface of the breeding site. After a mosquito is fully developed, it will emerge as an adult from its pupal case. At this time, the new adult stands upon the water and dries its wings to prepare for flight. Adult female mosquitoes will then seek an animal on which to feed.

Mosquitoes undergo four distinct life cycle stages: egg, larval, pupal and adult. The length of the first three stages varies by species and depends upon environmental conditions. Some mosquitoes have a life span of only four days, while others survive winter to lay eggs in spring.

Habits: Mosquitoes typically remain within a one-mile radius of their breeding site. Mosquitoes have poor eyesight. They cannot see objects more than 30 feet away from them and cannot easily distinguish between objects of similar size and shape. However, their sense of smell is highly efficient and they can locate hosts within a wide area. Their antennae also contain sensitive thermal receptors, which are used to locate blood near skin surfaces.

Only the female mosquito is equipped with the piercing-sucking mouthparts. A female specimen possesses a serrated proboscis, which reduces nerve stimulation in bite victims.  Mosquito bites result in red, white-ringed bumps that may bleed if scratched. While the bite of a mosquito is rarely painful, these insects are vectors of many important diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and the West Nile Virus. They also carry several encephalitis strains and transmit heartworms to cats and dogs. Mosquitoes do not feed on blood, but collect it in order to use its protein in developing eggs. Most mosquitoes prefer birds and herbivorous mammals other than humans as hosts.

Andrew IsraelsenMOSQUITOES