Mosquitoes are one group of nearly 3,600 species of small flies under the umbrella family of Culicidae. They are relatively small insects with slender, segmented bodies and 3 sets of long, hair-like legs. Mosquitoes have one pair of thin wings and elongated mouthparts that are perfect for feeding on blood and nectar. Though not commonly known, not all mosquitoes bite people, and out of the ones that do, it is only females that bite and obtain blood meals. This is because female mosquitoes use the blood to produce eggs (and more mosquitoes) while males only need nectar for sustenance.
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Itchy, inflamed skin isn’t the only concern when a mosquito bites. Some mosquitoes are what’s called vectors – a vector is a blanket term for animals, insects, or ticks that can spread germs and diseases to those they bite. Not all mosquitoes that bite can transfer pathogens; those that can’t are referred to as “nuisance pests.” But those who can are a major concern as they can carry and transfer a number of very serious diseases and illnesses. Some diseases that can be transmitted by mosquitoes are:
- West Nile Virus: a flu-like illness that can be passed on to people, horses, and birds. Some individuals infected end up not displaying any symptoms at all, however for groups that are particularly at-risk, West Nile Virus can be deadly.
- Zika Virus: a disease that results in fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes that is transmitted by night-active mosquitoes.
- La Crosse Encephalitis: a viral disease transmitted by the Tree Hole mosquito that results in severe illness, primarily in children.
- Jamestown Canyon Virus: a rare but severe illness that is similar to La Crosse but affects all age groups.
- Eastern/Western Equine Encephalitis: a rare, viral disease that can be transmitted to humans, horses, and birds.
- Malaria: a flu-like illness that is uncommon to the States but can be transmitted during travel to affected regions. Nearly half the world’s population lives at risk of contracting Malaria.
- Snowshoe Hare Virus: a rare but serious disease that first appeared in Canada, but now affects the US, as well. The virus causes headaches, dizziness, vomiting, a rash, and sometimes brain inflammation.
Mosquitoes don’t reserve biting just for humans – in fact, mosquitoes will bite just about any animal, including your family pets if given the chance! Although your furry friend’s dense fur coat provides a layer of protection, mosquitoes will bite exposed areas like the belly or inner legs. Dogs with shorter fur and therefore a thinner barrier may also be at more risk for mosquito bites, as well. Female mosquitoes in search of protein from blood for their eggs are not particularly picky about where it comes from. Unfortunately, that means your pup may be on the mosquito’s menu of Wrong Place at the Wrong Time.
THE LIFE CYCLE OF A MOSQUITO
Understanding the life cycle of a mosquito is crucial to both prevention and removal of them in and around your home. Mosquitoes are among the most adaptable insects and have learned to reproduce in a variety of different habitats. All mosquitoes require standing water to reproduce, but some “floodwater” species can reproduce in temporary water habitats, while other “permanent water” mosquitoes breed in water sources that remain for long periods of time. Still, yet, some mosquito species have evolved to reproduce by laying eggs specifically in natural or artificial containers.
Regardless of their habitat of choice, all mosquitoes experience the same four-stage life cycle: egg, larva, pupal, and adult. For all mosquitoes, the larval and pupal stages are aquatic in their entirety.
THE EGG STAGE
Female mosquitoes lay their eggs either individually or in large, connected groups called rafts, depending on the species. Eggs are deposited where still water is guaranteed, whether it be directly on still water’s surface or edges, or in areas where flooding and rainwater are imminent. Some species’ eggs will hatch within just a few days, while others that are out of direct water may lay dormant until the ideal flooding and hatching conditions are met. It is not uncommon for mosquito eggs to remain dormant for several years until the perfect habitat is established!
THE LARVAL STAGE
Once a mosquito egg hatches, they enter the larval stage. Most mosquito larvae species suspend themselves from the water’s surface allowing them to breathe through an air tube called a siphon, which functions much like a snorkel. As the mosquito larvae feed and grow, they begin to shed their exterior to form a new, protective exoskeleton. Depending on the species of mosquito, the larval stage can last anywhere from 4 to 14 days with some variance attributed to water temperature and food supply.
THE PUPAL STAGE
The mosquito’s pupal stage is unique in that the insects don’t feed at all during this particular stage. The mosquitoes still need to breathe, however, so they remain at the water’s surface and are sensitive to disturbances such as bright lights or shadows. They are also quite active during this stage and utilize a defensive, tumbling action to swim into deeper water as an escape mechanism. The pupal stage is remarkably short, lasting just 1.5 to 4 days. During this time, the pupa’s exterior begins to split along the back and the freshly formed adult emerges to rest along the water’s surface.
THE ADULT MOSQUITO STAGE
Typically, male adult mosquitoes will be the first to emerge, but they don’t go far. In fact, adult males will remain at the breeding site until the females emerge so they can begin mating immediately. This is thought to be due to the high mosquito mortality rates – up to 30% of the mosquito population can die each day after emergence. Female mosquitoes counteract these mortality rates by laying large quantities of eggs to ensure the continuation of the mosquito species. This survival instinct is incredibly important as male mosquitoes will live for just 6 or 7 days on average, feeding solely on plant nectar during this time. Female mosquitoes can live considerably longer (up to 5 months!) given an adequate food supply but typically live just 6 weeks on average. To develop and nourish her eggs, the female mosquito must feed on both nectar and blood. Finding her food source is easy for the female mosquito as she is highly sensitive to carbon dioxide and other trace chemicals exhaled by her victims. Because mosquitoes are active both day and night, the opportunities for a female mosquito are nearly endless. After each blood meal, she will lay her eggs, bringing the life cycle to completion. Some species will only lay eggs once during their life cycle, while others may lay eggs several times throughout the course of their short lives.
PREVENTING MOSQUITOES INDOORS AND OUTDOORS
Because mosquitoes can live both indoors and outdoors, preventing them in and around your home can be surprisingly difficult. According to the CDC, here are some effective ways to prevent mosquitoes both indoors and outdoors:
- Use screens on all open windows and doors. Make sure to repair any holes or gaps in the screens to ensure mosquitoes cannot gain entrance to your home.
- Use air conditioning when available.
- Remove potential mosquito habitats both inside and outside. At least once a week, empty, turn over, cover, or throw out items that can hold rainwater such as tires, buckets, planters, flowerpots, toys, pools, bird baths, or trash containers. Check water-holding containers inside the home, as well. Be wary of areas of standing water like ponds near your home as these are ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT A MOSQUITO PROBLEM IN OR AROUND YOUR HOME
The most effective way to treat mosquitoes is to contact a reputable pest control company like EcoShield. Mosquitoes are extremely abundant and adaptive insects that can be tricky to control without the help of a professional. EcoShield’s 100% guaranteed Squito Shield Program offers services at 3-week intervals to interrupt the mosquito life cycle, barrier treatments on both structural and natural surfaces, and larvicidal treatment as needed. The Squito Shield Program targets mosquitoes in every stage of their life cycle to not only rid you of pesky adult mosquitoes, but also prevent them from being able to reproduce. If you are struggling with mosquitoes in or around your home, call EcoShield for a free no-obligation quote today.
Frequently asked questions
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