Common Name: Mosquito
Order Name: Diptera
Family Name: Culicidae
Mosquitoes are members of the insect order Diptera along with flies and gnats. In fact, the name mosquito comes from the Spanish word that means small fly.
Most people recognize how bothersome mosquitoes can be when they are buzzing and biting. Many people do not realize that mosquitoes are vectors of several human diseases including malaria, encephalitis, yellow fever, dengue, and filariasis. Mosquitoes spread West Nile virus from birds to people and horses.
Adult mosquitoes are slender, long-legged insects. They have round heads and long, slender wings. When they are resting, the wings lie flat on the insect’s back.
Both male and female mosquitoes feed on honeydew, nectar, and plant juices. They use the sugar from these liquids for daily life. Female mosquitoes bite people and animals to get a blood meal. The female needs the blood in order to produce eggs. In a laboratory study, a female mosquito experienced a weight gain of 140% after a blood meal.
After a blood meal female mosquitoes deposit their eggs in or near a body of water. Each genus of mosquito has a slightly different process for egg production.
The Anopheles mosquitoes lay the eggs singly on the surface of the water. The eggs hatch in a few days. The Culex mosquitoes lay the eggs in floating rafts containing about 100 eggs. These eggs also hatch in a few days. The Aedes mosquitoes deposit the eggs in moist soil near the water. The eggs do not hatch until the water rises and covers the eggs. These eggs can stay in the soil for several years before they hatch.
Female mosquitoes use almost any standing water as a breeding site. Drainage ditches are the types of mosquito breeding sites that most people recognize. Holes in trees and un-used articles often fill with rain can also be used as breeding site plus planters that have been over-watered can even be mosquito-breeding sites.
When the eggs hatch, the larvae develop in the water. Many people call the larvae “wigglers” because of the way that they move. The larvae of most mosquitoes have a breathing tube that extends out of the water. The larvae shed their skin several times as they grow.
When they have finished growing, the larvae change into adults. This is the pupa stage. During the pupa stage, they float in a shell just under the surface of the water. While they are in this pupal shell, the insects are very active. Many people call them ‘tumblers’ during this stage.
When the mosquitoes have changed into adults, the shell splits and the adult insect comes out. Most adult mosquitoes emerge at night. Scientists think that this is because the water surface is most calm at night so there is less risk of the insect drowning.
Many different species of mosquitoes bite at different times of the day. Many mosquitoes that are important as disease vectors bite at night –from dusk to dawn. Some nocturnal (night-time) mosquitoes include the encephalitis mosquito, Culex tarsalis, and the Aedes vexans. However, some that are disease vectors bite during the day. One that bites during the day is the Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus. The yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, bites during the daytime and also at dawn and dusk.
Mosquito control at home begins with repairing window screens and keeping doors closed. Eliminating standing water will help reduce mosquito-breeding sites. In ponds and fountains, fish are often good for controlling mosquito larvae.
To avoid mosquito bites, many people avoid going outdoors at dusk and again at dawn. Some people find that a fan helps to keep mosquitoes away from their porch or patio.