No-see-um – Culicoides
Mosquito Life Cycle
The mosquito life cycle takes place in four distinct stages, from egg through to adulthood.
Female mosquitoes lay eggs about every third day during their lifespan, usually in clumps of 100 to 300 eggs. The eggs are deposited either as “rafts” floating on the surface of standing water or on the ground in areas that regularly flood. Mosquitoes can lay eggs in as little as one inch of water. The eggs, generally white when laid, cannot hatch unless they are in water, usually for two to three days.
When the eggs hatch, the larvae emerge. They are called “wigglers” because that’s how they swim. Most of the time, they hang from the surface of the water, breathing through tubes. The wigglers feed on organic matter in the water, shed their skins four times over about a week, and develop into pupae. Larvae are the easiest to kill, using oils that block their breathing or bacteria that poison them.
The pupae are called “tumblers” for the way the fall into the deepest part of the water when threatened by predators. They are shaped like commas, partially encased in cocoons, with the head at one end and tiny flippers at the other. The pupae do not feed while developing, but breathe through tubes like the larvae. It takes about four days for the the adult mosquito to emerge.
The newly emerged adults climb out of the water to rest and wait for their bodies to dry out. The males will take a day or two to fully develop their reproductive organs, then seek out a female, by the sound of her wingbeats, for mating. They’ll live about three to five days after that, feeding on fruit and plant nectar. The females mate once, but continue laying eggs after every blood meal. Under the best conditions, they can live up to a month or two.
Learn more about the mosquito life cycle.
Mosquitoes can live in almost any environment, with the exception of extreme cold weather. They favor forests, marshes, tall grasses and weeds, and ground that is wet at least part of the year. Because they must have water in order to thrive, their habitats break down into two basic types:
Permanent water mosquitoes tend to lay their eggs in clumps, called rafts, of 50 to 300 on the surface of standing water at the edges of lakes and ponds and among the vegetation in swamps and marshes. Some species prefer clean water, while Culex pipiens, the northern house mosquito, prefers stagnant or polluted water.
Culex and Anopheles mosquitoes are among the most common permanent water mosquitoes. These mosquitoes are most active when the average temperature is above 70 degrees. Their eggs must stay in water in order to survive and usually will hatch within a couple of days, releasing larvae to begin the development process.
Many permanent water mosquitoes can also breed in containers that collect and hold water, such as wading pools, buckets or toys left outside.
Floodwater mosquitoes lay their eggs in moist soil. The eggs, as many as one million per acre, will dry out as the ground does, then hatch when rains saturate the ground and water levels begin to rise. Floodwater habitats include:
Drainage ditches that fill during storms.
Woodland pools created by melting snow, or spring and early summer rains.
Floodplains along the banks of streams and rivers.
Irrigated pastures and fields.
Meadows and other soft ground where depressions form.
Common species include the Aedes vexans, also known as the inland floodwater mosquito. Mosquitoes that breed in floodwater habitats usually become a problem about seven to 10 days after a heavy rain, and subside in about a week or two.
Floodwater mosquitoes also breed in containers. Aedes albopictus, the Asian tiger mosquito, prefers the insides of old tires where dirty water collects, and Aedes triseriatus prefers treeholes that gather rainwater.
According to the American Mosquito Control Association, there are over 3,000 species of mosquitoes in the world, and at least 176 of them can be found in the United States. The most common, and most dangerous, are the various species in the Culex, Anopheles, and Aedes genera.
These mosquitoes tend to hibernate over the winter and breed during the warmer months, laying rafts of eggs at night on the surface of standing water anywhere it can be found. Over a period of about two weeks, the eggs hatch, larvae emerge, develop into pupae, and then into adult mosquitoes.
They normally don’t travel more than a few hundred yards from where they hatched. Adults feed primarily from dusk until a few hours after dark and are considered aggressive and persistent biters, although they prefer birds to people. Females need the protein in blood to develop eggs, which they lay about every third night. They can live up to a month.
The most prevalent is the Culex pipiens, known as the northern house mosquito. It is the main carrier of West Nile virus.
Mosquito species in this group also breed during the warmer months. Females also deposit their eggs on the surface of water in groups of 50 to 200. The eggs hatch and go through the same developmental process as Culex mosquitoes.
However, unlike other mosquito larvae, Anopheles larvae do not have breathing tubes, so they must lie parallel to the surface and breath through holes in their sides called spiracles. While Culex mosquitoes can breed and thrive in stagnant or polluted water, the Anopheles mosquitoes prefer clean water habitats in marshes, swamps, and rice fields, among others.
The adult females usually live about two weeks and feed at dusk and dawn. They tend to feed on people and cattle, rather than other warm-blooded creatures.
Anopheles mosquitoes are the carriers of the parasite that causes malaria and transmit the bugs through their saliva when they bite. More than one million deaths each year are attributed to malaria passed on by Anopheles mosquitoes.
The mosquitoes in this genera are floodwater mosquitoes, meaning they lay their eggs on moist soil or in containers that periodically catch rainfall. They prefer to breed in treeholes, overflow ditches, and old tires.
The eggs can survive drying and hatch once flooded by water. They develop in a four-stage process like other mosquitoes. As a predominantly tropical and subtropical group, Aedes mosquitoes tend to breed in warm weather, although some species can survive in colder environments.
The adults feed day and night, and several of the species are considered particularly troublesome. Aedes vexans, the inland floodwater mosquito, is known as a fierce and painful biter.
Two Aedes mosquitoes are also carriers of dangerous disease. Aedes albopictus, the Asian tiger mosquito, transmits dengue fever and eastern equine encephalitis, while Aedes aegypti, the yellow fever mosquito, transmits dengue and yellow fever.
Bats eat up to 600 mosquitoes an hour.
This one may have gotten started with a study in which mosquitoes were released into a room full of bats while researchers counted how many they ate. The bats consumed about 10 per minute, or 600 per hour. But mosquitoes were the only insects in the room for the hungry bats to eat. Since then, studies have found that mosquitoes make up less than 1 percent of bat diets.
Purple martins are voracious mosquito predators.
This is another scientific observation taken out of context. A researcher initially estimated that a purple martin would need to eat its body weight in mosquitoes, about 14,000 insects, every day in order to survive. However, like bats, purple martins actually prefer other prey, including dragonflies, which are mosquito predators. Mosquitoes make up less than 3 percent of the birds’ diets.
Dryer sheets make good mosquito repellents.
Several other household items are also supposed to be repellents, including banana peels and Vicks VapoRub. But repeated studies have shown that DEET is the only one that is consistently effective in blocking mosquito bites over extended periods of time. While picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus also been shown to repel mosquitoes, neither provides the same level of protection as DEET.
Lemon Joy and Listerine will kill mosquitoes.
This is an e-mail hoax debunked by Snopes.com. The idea is that leaving pools of water with lemon dish soap, or mouthwash, around the yard will attract and kill mosquitoes. Although that is true, the mosquito would have to land and become coated in the liquid in order to die. Dish soap and mouth wash are not like insecticides in that they do not hang in the air and kill mosquitoes as they fly through.
Bug zappers are a good way to reduce mosquitoes.
While zappers do kill a large number of insects, studies have found that most of them are moths and beetles, and less than 7 percents are mosquitoes. In fact, yards with zappers typically have no fewer mosquitoes than yards without zappers.
Electronic mosquito repellers work.
Researchers have consistently found that these devices have absolutely no effect on mosquitoes at all. They don’t repel, attract or in any way change mosquito behavior or effect the number in a given area.
Citrosa plants automatically keep mosquitoes away.
These hybrids, sold as “mosquito plants,” have been engineered to add citronella oil to regular geraniums. Citronella oil does have some mosquito-repelling qualities, but just the aroma coming from the plant is not enough. The leaves have to be crushed to release the oil, and even then it must be rubbed on skin to do any good.
How long do mosquito bites last?
The bumps are actually an allergic reaction to mosquito saliva. The reaction can vary from person to person, but usually last no more than 24 hours. Try a topical anti-itch cream or an anti-histamine such as Benadryl.
Does a mosquito have teeth?
No. A mosquito has a proboscis, which is a long, pointed mouth part used to pierce the skin. It contains two tubes; one for injecting saliva and one for drawing blood.
How many times can a mosquito bite?
A female will continue to bite and draw blood until her abdomen is full. If she is interrupted before she is full, she will fly to the next person. After feeding, the mosquito rests for two or three days before laying her eggs, then is ready to bite again.
How do mosquitoes spread malaria?
The mosquito feeds on an infected person and picks up the Plasmodium parasite. The parasite develops in the mosquito’s body for about two weeks. When the mosquito feeds, the Malaria parasite is passed on in saliva. They transmit West Nile virus and other diseases in similar ways.
How long does a mosquito live?
Males usually live about five to seven days, while females can live two weeks to a month, under ideal conditions. However, the females of some species hibernate during winter, so they can live several months.
Can a mosquito pass HIV?
No. Mosquitoes actually digest the virus, so it does not replicate and is broken down before it can be transmitted to someone else. Also, mosquitoes pass such minuscule amounts of blood when biting that infection is not possible.
How much blood can a mosquito drink?
When its abdomen is completely full, between 0.001 and 0.01 milliliters, depending on the species.
At what range can mosquito detect a person?
A mosquitoes can sense plumes of carbon dioxide from human breath at several hundred feet. At under 100 feet, it can smell the odors of human skin.
How do male mosquitoes find females?
By the sound of their wings. The females can beat their wings up to 500 times per minute, and the males listen for that frequency when seeking a mate.
Why do some people get bitten more than others?
Scientists aren’t sure what makes certain people more attractive to mosquitoes. They know that mosquitoes are drawn by large amounts of carbon dioxide and heat. They also prefer the scent of cholesterol, folic acid, bacteria from drying sweat and many perfumes, colognes and shampoos.
How fast can mosquitoes fly?
Most of them can fly about 1 to 1 ½ miles per hour. They usually stay fairly close to the ground and most don’t travel more than a mile at most from where they hatched.
One of the best ways to keep a yard clear of biting mosquitoes is to use a mosquito trap. When set up properly, just one or two of these ingenious devices can kill thousands of mosquitoes and all but wipe out a local population.
The style of trap varies by brand, but generally they range from indoor units the size of air purifiers to large units that resemble barbecue grills. Some run on electricity, while others are powered by propane tanks.
They work like this:
The homeowner places the mosquito trap in the yard between the source of the mosquitoes and where people gather. For example, if mosquitoes tend to come from a drainage ditch at the back of the yard, the trap would go near the ditch to catch the insects before they reach the patio.
Typically, it’s better to place the trap upwind of the mosquitoes and in a shaded spot.
Because mosquitoes find their prey by detecting CO2, octenol and other chemical odors, as well as light and heat, most mosquito traps use some combination of artificial smells and lighting displays to lure mosquitoes.
Brands like the Mosquito Magnet burn propane both to power the trap and to release CO2, while simpler machines like the Mega-Catch Mosquito Traps may rely on a octenol and a lighting array of oscillating frequencies proven to attract mosquitoes.
Once the mosquitoes get close to the traps, fans capture and force them into catch basins or bags or onto sticky boards to die.
Different mosquito species respond in different ways to the attractants, so homeowners need to experiment to find the right right combination of stimuli. For example, the Asian tiger mosquito, which can transmit dengue and yellow fever, is a daytime biter and responds better to visual attractants than chemical odors.
Most mosquito traps can run continuously, which is important in the beginning as it typically takes about two months to kill enough female mosquitoes to make a population collapse.
Mosquito Bite Prevention
Top Five Tips for preventing mosquito bites include:
The most common mosquito species prefer to feed at dawn and dusk and will continue feeding two to three hours after dark. Try to avoid going outside as much as possible during these times. Be aware, however, that some species feed during the day and are aggressive biters.
Wearing light, loose clothing
One way mosquitoes select prey is by homing in on the heat produced by warm-blooded bodies. Dark-colored clothing traps heat, making the wearer the warmest prey for the mosquito. Mosquitoes also have photosensitive eyes that can detect bright colors. And, looser clothing makes it more difficult for the mosquito to penetrate the skin.
Avoid scented bath products
Although the reasons aren’t clear, mosquitoes seem to be attracted to fragrances used in shampoos, colognes, perfumes and lotions. Not every product or scent will attract them, but many do, so it is best to leave them off when spending time outdoors.
Sprays that mask the skin odors most attractive to mosquitoes make it possible for people to hide in plain sight. A repellent containing DEET or another proven chemical blinds the receptors mosquitoes use to pick up on skin odors, meaning they aren’t able to locate their prey. Apply it lightly to exposed skin, avoiding cuts and sores.
Use Mosquito Nets and Screens
Fit mesh screens around doors and windows to provide mosquito-free zones inside your home. Also consider sleeping with a mosquito net over your bed. Mosquito netting has fine holes that are big enough to allow breezes to easily pass through, but small enough to keep mosquitoes and other biting insects out.
Combining these tips along with sensible mosquito control strategies around your home plus a mosquito trap should provide the best overall protection.