Mosquitoes belong to a family named Culicidae. There are over 3,500 known species of mosquitoes. Talking about the body structure, a Mosquito has a slender body with visible segmentations.
It has one pair of halteres and one pair of wings. There are three pairs of legs, which are long and extremely thin. The two elongated mouthparts (proboscis) are also present.
The adult females use these mouthparts to pierce the host’s skin and draw out blood. The hosts can be mammals, reptiles, birds, and amphibians.
Common Types of Mosquitoes
Depending on the habitat, lifespan, breeding, and behaviors, there are numerous types of mosquitoes living on our planet. A few of the most common types are listed below.
Just like any other mosquito species, Anopheles lay their eggs on water. These eggs have a built-in floating device. They can float on either side.
Females can lay up to 50-200 eggs at a time. These eggs take at least three days to hatch. The Anopheles mosquito bites mostly during the night. It is the major transmitter of Malaria virus.
Aedes Aegypti or Yellow Fever Mosquito
This mosquito is known to transmit yellow fever. However, there are some other diseases that we can associate with them i.e. chikungunya virus, Zika, dengue.
The Aedes aegypti shows a different biting pattern, as it prefers to bite during the day. It usually lives in populated or urban areas. Humans are the most desired target for these mosquitoes.
They find their host using the chemical compounds we secrete, including carbon dioxide, ammonia, octenol, and lactic acid.
These types of mosquitoes are primarily found in subtropical, tropical, and some temperature climates. Because these types of mosquitoes like feeding on people, they live near people than the other different types of mosquitoes, they spread more viruses than other types of mosquitoes.
Culex or House Mosquito
The scientific name of the house mosquito is Culex quinquefasciatus. This particular species rely on birds, mammals, and humans for drawing out the blood.
These mosquitoes live in both tropical or subtropical regions. Culex mosquitoes are known to transmit the West Nile virus.
They buzz at night and tries to bite and wake you up. They have a typical behavior of coming into people’s homes and attacking between sunset and sunrise. When they want blood, especially to lay eggs, they will bite you several times through the night. The female type badly needs the blood as it cannot complete the biological cycle without it.
Its larvae are aquatic and develop anywhere that has a collection of water. That can be a container, structure, or even a gutter. This types of mosquitoes are found everywhere and can settle on both polluted and clean waters. You can even see them on poorly maintained sewers and cesspools.
This type of mosquito is responsible for spreading the West Nile Virus, but this disease does not get much attention like Zika and Malaria. It has affected a lot of horses and even in 2010, and 2016 claimed human lives. In other countries like Italy, Greece, and Romania, it has claimed several lives.
Asian Tiger Mosquito
The Aedes albopictus or most commonly known as the Asian Tiger mosquito is a species that originated in Asia. However, at present, this species is also present in other parts of the world.
These mosquitoes spread a wide range of diseases including chikungunya, dengue, and dirofilariasis. Unlike other mosquitoes, the Asian Tiger mosquito is capable of surviving in cooler areas.
Eastern Saltmarsh Mosquito
These mosquitoes usually stay within their breeding areas. However, they can travel up to 40 miles in search of a target. Aedes sollicitans is a scientific name for the eastern saltmarsh mosquito.
The female mosquitoes of this species are aggressive when it comes to biting. They continue to bite whether it’s day or night. The Eastern Saltmarsh mosquitoes feast on mammals, birds, reptiles, and humans.
This type of mosquito is mainly found along the Atlantic coast. However, that does not mean it is the only place you will find it, and it is not afraid to travel so that it can go very far.
Some mosquitoes stay close to where they breed, but this type can leave and go looking for blood meals as far as 40 miles away. Its scientific name is Aedes sollicitans which n Latin means disturbing.
The mosquitoes belonging to this species normally breed in artificial containers or tree holes. Unlike other species, the female doesn’t bite animals or humans for blood.
The reason for this is the fact that these female mosquitoes don’t need blood for egg development. On the contrary, the curved and long proboscis is used for drawing out the nectar from flowers.
Therefore, Toxorhynchites are not referred to as a nuisance for humans. Since they don’t bite, these mosquitoes don’t spread diseases.
However, these mosquitoes are the most active predators at the larval stage. They feast on the larvae of other mosquitoes that are within their proximity.
Also called the elephant mosquito, this is very colorful and is found in different southern and northern parts. It is one of the largest known species of mosquitos and one that does not consume blood.
The big ones eat carbohydrates like saps, honeydew, nectar, fruit, and juices found in damaged plants. They don’t suck blood when they are adults because they see it as a risk. It is also because they have already accumulated all the materials they need for vitellogenesis and oogenesis.
Most of them are found in forests, and their larvae consume the larvae of other types of mosquitos like the Aedes Aegypti. In order to fight dengue fever, and scientists recommend introducing this type of mosquitoes outside their range.
Pitcher Plant Mosquito
Wyeomyia smithii is the scientific name of pitcher plant mosquito. These mosquitoes find tiny pools for laying their eggs. The carnivorous pitcher plant is the most preferred choice.
The female mosquitoes are lucky enough to safely exit the pitcher plant after laying their eggs. However, other insects like moths, ants, and flies get trapped in the pitchers.
The dead insects serve as nutritious food for developing larvae of pitcher plant mosquitoes. After digesting the bugs, the larvae excrete out the nutrients essential for the pitcher plant.
In addition, the females of this species are of two types. One kind bites while the other type of female mosquitoes doesn’t. Researchers and scientists are studying this type of female mosquito to learn why it doesn’t have a tendency to bite.
If successful in knowing the secret, scientists can turn off the biting gene in other species of mosquitoes. In this way, we can eradicate mosquito-borne diseases.
This type of mosquito mostly lives in small pools. Their females lay eggs in a watery environment as that is where they develop best. You can also find their eggs inside the carnivorous purple pitcher plant leaves.
They lay eggs and then fly away to safety; however, any other insect that falls into the pitches can get eaten by the developing ones. Once they digest the bugs, they will excrete the nutrients that the pitcher plant needs.
This type of mosquito species is unique because not all of their female mosquitoes are the same. Some of them bite ad others don’t; scientists are working hard to see if they can stop the ones that bite. That way, it will be easier to get rid of mosquito-borne diseases from the world.
Evolution of Mosquitoes
Mosquitoes are extremely tiny insects. On average, they are half an inch long. Besides, they weigh only 2 to 2.5 milligrams. Mosquitoes may be small, but they have a huge impact on human life.
Timothy C. Winegard, who is a famous historian (Colorado Mesa University), suggests that mosquitoes are the worst enemies of humans. He also states that over 100 trillion mosquitoes are currently living in our world.
The data collected by the Centers for Disease Control reveals that mosquitoes can transmit pathogens. This in turn can spread a wide range of diseases i.e. West Nile, Dengue, Malaria, Yellow Fever, Chikungunya, and Zika.
However, a question arises that whether mosquitoes were always so destructive or it is a result of some evolutionary changes. To seek the answer, it is imperative to know the evolutionary history of mosquitoes.
The Earliest Mosquitoes
At present, over 3,000 known species of mosquitoes exist in our world. However, things were not the same as they are today. The University of Alaska suggests that the oldest recorded mosquito fossil dates back to 79 million years ago.
However, scientists believe that mosquitoes came into existence approximately 226 million years ago. In 2019, scientists from Oregon State University conducted research. According to their findings, they discovered new species of ancient mosquitoes.
They found this species while dissecting a piece of amber that belonged to the mid-Cretaceous Period (145 to 66 million years ago). The researchers have found that the discovered fossil of a mosquito appeared to be similar to the modern-day species.
Usually, the prehistoric mosquitoes have shown a strong resemblance to Anopheles mosquitoes. These mosquitoes are famous for being the cause of malaria. Each year, this species affects millions of people throughout the globe.
Scientists have observed the following body parts in prehistoric mosquitoes:
- Wing veins
All these parts are also present in almost every modern-day species. Although there are a few minor differences, the size, shape, and basic features of the prehistoric mosquitoes are identical to present-day mosquitoes.
In 2013, scientists come across fossilized mosquitoes. The evidence suggests that it is a 46 million years old species. They also found traces of iron and hemoglobin within the body of this mosquito.
This is direct evidence showing that the mosquitoes existed nearly 46 million years ago also used to drink blood.
Host Preference and Evolutionary Changes
According to a study published in the Current Biology journal, mosquitoes were not in a habit to bite humans nearly 10,000 years ago. However, the agricultural development and dense human population have triggered the human-biting behavior of the mosquitoes.
Before this kind of development, mosquitoes used to prefer animals and amphibians for biting. The scientists also suggest that the mosquitoes started to breed in areas with a thick human population.
There are two basic reasons for such preference. First, mosquitoes could find a lot of humans in close proximity. Hence, they don’t have to travel a lot to find the host.
Secondly, mosquitoes can easily find water resources in urban areas. This helps them with consistent breeding throughout the year. Hence, it can be stated that the tendency of a mosquito to bite humans is an evolutionary change.
Effective Ways to Prevent Mosquito Bites
Summer is a time when mosquito activity is at its peak. Hence, everyone is concerned about the best ways to avoid mosquito bites. This is important as mosquito bites can result in a wide range of diseases including malaria, dengue, and yellow fever.
Below are the most effective methods to protect you from mosquitoes.
Keep your Surroundings Dry and Clean
During adequate conditions, it takes no more than 14 days for mosquitoes to breed. They just need a small amount of water. So, keep your flower pots clean and regularly remove excessive water.
If you have a fishpond, make sure to add mosquito-eating fish i.e. minnows, guppies, or mosquito fish. Besides, you must also try to add a fountain or create a small waterfall to the pond.
Treating your pond water with Bacillus thuringiensis is another viable option. This is a kind of natural bacteria, which kills mosquito larvae.
Regularly examine your yard and fill in the small holes. Apart from this, remove any water from the rain gutters. If having a pool, make sure to keep it maintained properly.
Avoid Staying Outside during the Evening
Although mosquito bites are common at night, you can’t rule out the chances of meeting this menace during the day. But evening is the prime time for the female mosquitoes to feed on our blood.
So, it would be wise to limit your exposure to mosquitoes after dusk. However, if it is imperative to go out, don’t forget to take the necessary precautions.
Make sure to be Less Tempting
Scientists and researchers are studying the reasons why some people turn out to be more tempting for mosquitoes. Some researchers suggest that drinking beer can make a person more appealing to mosquitoes.
This is due to fact that we exhale more Co2 after drinking beer. To avoid such temptation, wear full sleeves and use perfume to mask your body odor.
Don’t Wear Bright-colored Cloths
Bright and deep colors like black, blue, and red attract more bugs. Therefore, wear light-colored clothes when going out to an open place during the night.
Rely on Natural Repellents
The oil of lemon eucalyptus is a natural mosquito repellent. It is derived from eucalyptus citriodora, which is a eucalyptus tree. It offers effective protection against mosquito bites.
Stop Mosquitoes Entering your Home
Mosquitoes can be more dangerous when they enter your house. If it happens, you would be under a constant threat of mosquito bites irrespective of the day or night.
To avoid this, make sure to use screens on the windows. Also, hang a fine net around your bed. Keep the doors and windows shut.
Some Interesting FAQs about Mosquitoes
Do all Mosquitoes Bite?
No, only female mosquitoes do bite humans and other animals. Usually, male and female mosquitoes feed on the nectar of flowering and fruit plants.
However, a female mosquito requires blood protein for the development of her eggs. For this purpose, she bites us and draws out the blood.
What is the Average Size of a Mosquito?
On average, a mosquito measures between 3 mm to 6 mm. The largest mosquito is nearly 19 mm (0.7 in) while the smallest one measures 2 mm (0.1 in).
How do Mosquitoes Locate the Target?
Mosquitoes are capable of identifying human breath. The antennae on their head contain receptors, which detect carbon dioxide (Co2).
Hence, mosquitoes identify us when we exhale this gas during the respiration process. In addition, mosquitoes also rely on their heat sensors. These are located around their mouth.
These sensors can help to detect the heat or warmth released by our bodies. Once the target is located, the next step is to find the best capillaries on the skin.
Do Mosquitoes Sleep at Night?
In fact, mosquitoes don’t sleep during the night. However, there is nothing much to do for these insects during the day. This is the time when they sleep or remain inactive.
Do Mosquitoes Hibernate?
During extreme winter conditions, a few species of mosquitoes hibernate. Mosquitoes choose protective places while hibernating. This helps them to avoid harsh weather conditions.
How Long Do Adult Mosquitoes Live?
After hatching from the pupae, mosquitoes stay on the water surface for a few hours. During this period, the wings dry and the body hardens. Within a couple of days, mosquitoes start to eat and breed.
The lifespan of a female mosquito is longer than the male. A female mosquito can live for 100 days. However, the male mosquito can survive only for a week.
What Smells Do Mosquitoes Hate?
The odor of a Lantana plant is what mosquitoes hate the most. The bitter and citrusy odor of this plant keeps the mosquitoes away.
In addition, citrus plants, their extracts, and even crushed leaves can serve as natural mosquito repellents. The fruits and plants mentioned below have smells that mosquitoes don’t like at all.
Most of these plants produce natural oils that act as mosquito repellants. Besides, the smell of these oils is pleasant too.
What do Mosquitoes Eat?
Most people think that mosquitoes suck blood to meet their dietary needs. However, this isn’t true. Only the female mosquito sucks blood for the development of her eggs.
When it comes to mosquito food, both females and males eat the nectar of flowering and fruit plants. This is the reason why mosquitoes are abundant within bushes and around flower beds.
The proboscis locates at the mouth of a mosquito. It consists of two small tubes. Mosquitoes inject these tubes into our skin and suck blood. When doing so, they also release an enzyme that prevents blood from clotting.
In this way, a mosquito can draw maximum blood out of our capillaries. The enzyme and saliva coming from the mosquito’s proboscis activate the allergic response from our immune system.
This is the reason behind the itching that we feel when a mosquito bites us.
How Fast a Mosquitoes can Fly?
During normal and calm wind conditions, a mosquito can fly at a speed ranging between 1 and 1.5 miles/hour. With this speed, mosquitoes tend to be a bit slower than other insects including locusts, butterflies, and bees.
Why Mosquitoes Make a Buzzing Sound?
Mosquitoes don’t have a sound. However, when they flap their wings at a rate of 300 to 600 times/second, a buzzing sound is generated.
The sound is so faint that we can only hear it when the mosquito is close to our ears. Hence, we are not aware of a mosquito’s presence until it bites or comes close to our ear.
Whether Mosquitoes are Parasites or not?
Biologically, parasites are organisms that survive by depending on a host. Although mosquitoes feed on the blood of humans or other animals, they are not parasites. This is so, as mosquitoes don’t live on one host and they feed on multiple resources.
Are there any Benefits of Mosquitoes?
Mosquitoes are known for spreading malaria, dengue, and other mosquito-borne illnesses. Hence, it might be hard to associate any kind of benefit with mosquitoes.
This may sound crazy, but mosquitoes have a vital role in our ecosystem. These species are necessary for our habitat and eradicating them can cause some serious issues.
To give you an idea about the benefits of mosquitoes, we have compiled a list. So, let’s see why mosquitoes are important for our ecosystem.
Helps During the Pollination Process
Mosquitoes feed on the nectar of flowering plants. During this process, they go from one flower to another. As a result, mosquitoes help to spread the pollen grains.
Pollination is the most essential step of the reproductive system. Since mosquitoes help plants completing this step, they prove to be an important part of our ecosystem.
Serve as a Food Source for other Animals
Being a substantial food source, mosquitoes tend to be an integral part of numerous food chains around us. Hence, we can’t overlook the importance of mosquitoes.
If the population of a particular animal increases or decreases, it affects other animals living in the same food chain.
Mosquitoes Remove Waste (To Make Compost)
The larvae of a mosquito are among the hungriest things on the planet. After emerging from the eggs, they start to feed on almost anything that comes their way.
For instance, they can eat parasites, algae, fungus, etc. After eating so much, mosquito larvae release frass. Technically, frass is the feces of mosquito larvae. It contains nutrients that are essential for plants.
Hence, the water containing these larvae becomes nutritionally rich. These nutrients are completely dissolved in the water. Hence, they are highly beneficial for plant growth.
An Inspiration to Medical Research
The major portion of the research done on mosquitoes relates to creating an effective repellent. Nevertheless, some scientists and researchers are working on the physiology and anatomy of a mosquito.
Studies have been conducted to understand the mechanism of mosquito proboscis. Scientists are trying to find out why we don’t feel any pain when a mosquito pierces its proboscis through our skin.
It can help us design a painless needle. Furthermore, the chemicals present in the saliva of a mosquito are also important for scientific research. These chemicals prevent our blood from clotting.
By studying the chemical composition of mosquito’s saliva, we may create anti-clotting drugs. The use of such drugs would minimize the risk of a heart attack.
Fun Facts about Mosquitoes
When we hear the word “Mosquito”, an irritating feeling of itchy bites comes to our mind. However, there are some fun facts associated with these insects.
So, let’s see what we got here!
- The origin of mosquitoes dates back to the Jurassic period. This suggests that these insects were on this planet over 210 million years ago.
- The term “Mosquito’ is a Spanish word, which means “little fly.” In New Zealand, Africa, and Australia, mosquitoes are also known as “mozzies.”
- Out of 3,000 species of mosquitoes, only a few hundred bite humans.
- Mosquitoes are greedy. They can drink blood 3 times their body weight.
- Mosquitoes don’t have teeth, hence they can’t bite. However, they have a pointed mouthpart named proboscis. It helps them to pierce through the skin and draw blood.
- Mosquitoes prefer to bite cattle, horses, and birds. So, humans are the second choice.
- Female mosquitoes are capable of laying 200 to 300 eggs at a given time.
- All the mosquito eggs can hatch over 1-inch of water surface.
- Usually, females can lay eggs three times during their life.
- On average, a female mosquito can live for two months or less. However, males can survive only for a week.
- Below 50 degrees temperatures, mosquitoes tend to hibernate. A few adult females can find holes where they wait for the warmer weather. While hibernating, female mosquitoes can live up to 6-months.
- There are Green mosquitoes to sterilizing the Dengue virus
- The top speed of a mosquito is 1.5 miles/hour approximately.
- Some species of mosquitoes can fly as high as 8,000 feet.
- Human breath attracts mosquitoes. The antennae on their heads detect Co2 that we exhale.
- Bright colors attract mosquitoes.
Most Effective Natural Mosquito Repellents
If you like to spend most of your free time in nature, be prepared for mosquito bites. Although widely available mosquito repellents are effective, they have certain side effects.
However, there are some natural or organic mosquito repellants. These options are as effective as chemical-based repellents.
Listed below are the top-performing natural mosquito repellents.
Lemon Eucalyptus Oil
Lemon eucalyptus oil is a reliable and well-known repellent. It has such ingredients that keep mosquitoes away. Natural repellants containing 32% lemon eucalyptus oil can prove to be effective against mosquito bites.
Cinnamon contains ingredients that are effective when it comes to eradicating mosquito eggs. Besides, it can also serve as an impressive repellent.
The fragrance produced by crushing a lavender flower can repel mosquitoes. The oil produced from lavender also proves to be effective against mosquitoes. Lavender exhibits antifungal, analgesic, and antiseptic qualities. In addition to repelling mosquitoes, lavender oil can also soothe the skin.
Thyme oil proves to be the most effective while repelling malarial mosquitoes. It provides the best protection for an extended period. By throwing thyme leaves into a campfire, you can avoid mosquito bites.
Citronella is a common essential oil that also acts as a mosquito repellent. It is made of a variety of herbs. This oil also serves as a key ingredient in natural mosquito repellents.
To get the best results, all the herbs must be used according to a specific percentage. If formulated correctly, it would prove to be as effective as other top-rated mosquito repellents.