Imagine going to bed and sleeping safe and sound for as long as you can remember until you are woken up by an incessant, annoying buzzing sound that is loud and clear in your ears. You wake up scratching your arms and legs as the buzzing continues in a similar fashion. No surprises there, it is none other than a pesky, little mosquito looking for another place to feed on your blood.
Best described as a type of small, flying insects, mosquitoes have truly become a massive nuisance for most domestic and wild animals, and almost all human beings. They are clearly distinguished by their slender, segmented bodies, elongated mouthparts, a pair of wings and pairs of long hair-like legs.
Things You Didn’t Know about Mosquitoes
Most of us refer to mosquitoes as tiny, flying nuisances that really drive us insane during the night. Much to your surprise, there are so many things and interesting facts about mosquitoes that you probably didn’t even know before.
- As unbelievable as it may sound, only female mosquitoes bite since they need all the protein they can get from the blood for the development of their eggs.
- Female mosquitoes don’t just bite but they have the ability to lay up to 300 eggs, all at one time. They can lay eggs up to three times before they die.
- The reason why mosquitoes so easily find their way to humans is that they can smell human breath. Their antennae have receptors that allow them to detect any amount of carbon dioxide that we release when we exhale.
- Mosquitoes are particularly attracted to dark clothing which is why you will often them hovering over people wearing black.
- Male mosquitoes have the special powers of being able to locate their female counterparts by the sound of their wings. This is essential because female mosquitoes have the ability to beat their wings up to 500 times in a single second. Interestingly, when seeking a mate, male mosquitoes pick out those female mosquitoes that have a higher beating frequency.
- Mosquitoes can only survive up to two months on average. The lifespan for males is the shortest which is usually just up to ten days while females can last for an average of six to eight weeks.
How Do Mosquitoes Breed?
The most common breeding method among a majority of mosquito species is laying eggs in stagnant water. Some female mosquitoes lay the eggs near the water’s edge while others prefer attaching their eggs to the aquatic plants found in these waters.
The situation of water that they decide depends on the requirements of each species. They do it according to their own ecological adaptations so some breed in lakes and others breed in temporary puddles. You will also find breeding grounds for some mosquitoes in marshes while others may have them in salt marshes. Of all those who breed in salt water, some find the salt water just like at home where it is up to one-third of the whole concentration of seawater and others have to make peace and familiarise themselves with the salinity.
This vast difference in breeding grounds and methods is extremely important because there are certain ecological preferences that bring these pesky mosquitoes right inside your house at night, whereas there are also other a great many preferences that help keep them away from humans and animals.
Types of Mosquitoes
There are more than 3000 species of mosquitoes that are found in almost every region and the continent of the world except Antarctica. These are some of the most common and popular mosquitoes, some of which you probably even see flying around you.
Yellow Fever Mosquito
Scientific name: Aedesaegypti
The Yellow Fever Mosquito has garnered significant popularity during the last few years considering how it is one of the biggest agents that help spread the Zika virus. The mosquito is also greatly associated with the spread of other diseases and viruses like dengue fever, Mayaro, and yellow fever viruses, to name a few.
This famous mosquito has originated from Africa and now can be found in a range of tropical, sub-tropical and temperate regions all across the globe. One of its key distinguishing features is its white markings on the legs, as well as on the upp4er surface of its thorax in the form of a lyre.
As the name of this mosquito variety species implies, it is the primary vector of the yellow fever disease which is a disease that particularly emerges during the summer months and is quite prevalent in Africa and South America.
They are small to medium-sized mosquitoes that typically grow up to 4 to 7 millimeters. This mosquito is often confused with the Asian Tiger Mosquito, given the similarity in the appearance of both these mosquitoes. The yellow fever mosquito has white scales on the top surface of its thorax and their abdomen is usually a dark brown to black color. They lay their eggs in both natural and artificial water-holding containers, which may include clogged gutters, used tires, tree holes, plastic containers, etc. The eggs can easily survive in temperate climates but are completely unable to survive through the winter season in colder climates.
Marsh mosquitoes have over 460 recognized species, out of which 100 are known to be the transmitters of human malaria, giving them the ultimate title of “the Malaria Mosquito Species”.The female Anopheles mosquito, in particular, is one of the ablest and capable vectors of this disease. They are able to kill millions of people by penetrating into the skin of the victim.
Marsh mosquitoes have a special apparatus that allows them to spread this human disease. They have two pairs of cutting stylets present at the end of their slender proboscis. These cutting stylets slide against each other as they slice into the skin. Once they are able to penetrate through the victim’s skin, the proboscis starts probing tiny blood vessels. It has two hollow tubes where one of them injects saliva through the skin and the other one takes away the blood from the microscopic wound. Interestingly, the saliva of these mosquitoes has anti-inflammatory and antihemostatic properties that halt the pain reaction and also disrupt the clotting process.
The body of these mosquitoes sports a dark brown to a black color and is divided into three main sections, namely the head, thorax, and abdomen. When these mosquitoes are in a resting position, their entire stomach area points upwards, rather than spreading over an equal surface as in with most other mosquitoes.
The Anopheles mosquito is found almost everywhere in the world except Antarctica. The female species lay their eggs in a wide range of locations and breeding grounds that typically include salt and freshwater areas, as well as vegetative and non-vegetative species.
Asian Tiger Mosquito
Scientific name: Aedesalbopictus
Also known as forest mosquitoes, the Asian tiger mosquitoes are quite an exotic species. They have a single white stripe going down the center of their back and head, giving them quite a tiger-like appearance, hence the given name.
These mosquitoes have originated from Southeast Asia and just like the yellow fever mosquito; they also have the ability to transmit harmful diseases like the Zika virus, dengue fever, West Nile virus and chikungunya.
They have black colored bodies with prominent silver markings that set them apart from other types of mosquitoes. It has white legs, a single median silver-white colored stripe that extends from its head all the way to the center of its back. Their body is long and segmented that grows to an average of 2-10 mm that makes about 1/8”.
Some common signs of infestation caused by the Asian tiger mosquitoes are the presence of immature mosquitoes in standing water, bites on the skin that result in mild irritation and often intense inflammation. The typically lay their eggs in containers filled with both artificial and natural water, including spaces in old tires and cavities in trees.
These mosquitoes were first introduced in the United States, particularly in tire casings that were imported for the purpose of recapping. This has spread the species to more than to 20 states since then and has also made it a very important disease carrier in Asia.
Scientific name: Culexpipiens
Also known as the ‘northern house mosquito’, this is a widely spread mosquito species that are distributed in a range of locations, including Argentina, Croatia, Bulgaria, Roman8ia, Russia, Turkey, Canada, Cyprus, Italy, Hungary, and Greece, to name a few.
The house mosquito is a blood-feeding mosquito from the family Culicidae and it is a vector for a variety of diseases, particularly the Japanese encephalitis. Furthermore, it can spread the disease West Nile Virus in Europe and the United States, as well as the Usutu Virus in Italy.
These mosquitoes grow to an average length that ranges from three to seven millimeters and their adult lives are very short, only going up to 15 days. They typically thrive in temperate climates and have the ability to reproduce in both standing and flood-prone water. Some typical examples of their laying areas include used tires, natural marshes, clogged gutters, catch basins, ditches, and cesspools.
Both the female and male species of the house mosquito like feeding on various sugar sources, particularly juices from fruits, honeydew, and nectar. Once they mate, the females feeding on blood over sugar since the blood of the victims provides them with essential proteins that are vital for the development of their eggs.
The best way to keep these annoying nocturnal pests out of your house is ensuring that there is no standing water near your place because they breed in places that have a lot of moisture. You can also protect yourself by installing window screens and applying a lot of moisture repellent before going to bed.
Scientific name: Culexquinquefasciatus
Also commonly known as the southern house mosquito, this brown and medium-sized mosquito is commonly found in lower altitudes of temperate regions as well as in a variety of tropical regions. These mosquitoes have emerged from the southern United States and are now popularly found throughout the whole of Florida.
Southern mosquito is an opportunistic blood-feeder that is extremely active during the night time and is also a vector of several pathogens. Majority of these pathogens are known to affect humans. It is a vector of avian malaria and arboviruses like the Zika virus and the West Nile Virus.
The body of this mosquito grows to an average of 3.96 to 4.25 mm long. The main body sports a dark brown color while the tarsi, wings, proboscis, and thorax of this mosquito are even a darker shade than the rest of its body. Its head is light brown and the antennae are often slighter shorter than the proboscis, minus a few exceptions in which both are of the same length.
As a vector, the southern mosquito affects humans as well as wild and domestic animals by transmitting zoonotic diseases like avian malaria, West Nile fever, and the Zika virus. These mosquitoes typically breed in dirty water collections like burrow pits, stagnant drains, leaking septic tanks and organically polluted water collections.
Chemical control and personal protection are two of the best ways to inhibit the transmission of mosquito-borne pathogens as well as to reduce mosquito bites. Since they like feeding in the night, you must use mosquito repellent for safety purposes and also wear long-sleeved shirts during night-time activities.
Scientific name: Aedes
This is a genus of mosquitoes that are found all across the world in majority of the subtropical and tropical zones, except, of course, the Antarctica. One of the most invasive species of this genus is the Aedesalbopictus whose population was recently spread to the New World, especially the United States.
The generic name of this genus, ‘Aedes’ has been derived from Ancient Greek and it translates to ‘unpleasant’ or ‘odious’ in the English language. They are transmitters of a number of serious diseases including the Zika virus, yellow fever virus, and dengue fever.
These mosquitoes are greatly distinguishable from other mosquito species due to the highly prominent and noticeable white and black markings on their legs and bodies. An interesting thing about the Aedes mosquitoes is that they are highly active only during day time and they also bite during that time only. Unlike the majority of other mosquito species, their biting period begins early in the morning and goes on all the way till the evening before the time of dusk.
Members of this genus play a very important role as vectors and carriers for numerous viral infections. The aedesaqlbopictus and aedesaegypti, in particular, are two highly prominent species that transmit viruses causing dengue fever as well as yellow fever, eastern equine encephalitis, and Zika virus.
In order to protect yourself from the various infections and diseases caused by the Aedes mosquito, you must get yourself vaccinated. There are also insecticides like DDT, along with mosquito traps mosquito repellents and mosquito nets, all together which offer great protection from the Aedes mosquito.
Scientific name: Culicinae
This is the most extensive subfamily of mosquitoes that are highly concentrated in tropical areas. They have their species distributed in every continent of the world, except Antarctica.
Culcinae is a subfamily of mosquitoes that belongs to Culicidae, the largest family of mosquitoes. Culcinae mosquitoes are basically small flies with forewings that help them fly and hind wings that allow them to balance. They have long and slender legs coupled with proboscis-style mouthparts that are great for feeding on plant fluids, as well as on vertebrate blood.
This family of mosquitoes consists of over 3076 species that are grouped together into various different categories like Aedes, Culex, sabethes, etc. They have a worldwide distribution and are popularly found throughout all tropical and most of the northern temperate regions.
The female species of this genus of mosquitoes are the only blood-feeders and before they oviposit, they require feeding on a high-quality protein meal. Since they are super efficient at finding hosts, they can move swiftly from one meal of blood to the other. While doing so, they inject their saliva in the blood source, during which they are also likely to inject pathogens that they had probably picked up from other hosts. This greatly spreads serious diseases from one host to the other.
Both the males and females of this genus like feeding on plant sugars like the nectar. One of the main reasons why females are the only sex that feeds on blood is because of the way their mouthparts are designed to pierce the skin of hosts. The females, unlike males, also have really big and round eyes that greatly help them find a host, as well as to detect changes in odors and light.
Scientific name: Mansonia
These mosquitoes are best described as big black or brown insects that have quite a sparkle on their legs and wings. They have a massive distribution worldwide and are most commonly found in tropical regions, while some species thrive best in colder areas.
Mansonia mosquitoes are considered quite a nuisance to domestic animals and human beings. They usually breed in ponds and lakes that have an abundance of aquatic plants, particularly the ones that float on the water surface like water hyacinth.
There are different categories within this very species of mosquitoes. Firstly, there are mansoniatitillans that are popular transmitters of the Venezuelan equine encephalitis in the south and Central America, as well as the southern United States. The other is the mansoniauniformis, a sub-species that is a known vector of Wuchereriabancrofti in western New Guinea and is widely distributed in the Australasian region, western Africa, Japan, and southern Asia.
Scientific name: Eretmapodites
This is an Afrotropical mosquito genus that is characterized by its yellowish brown color and a large, broad patch of flat silver scales that are right above the antennae, separating the eyes.
These mosquito species are popularly known for their cannibalistic tendencies, especially in situations where the food sources become too scarce. The larvae of the eretmapodites primarily feed on decaying organic matter, after which they also resort to consuming their fellow partners when there is insufficient food.
These mosquitoes have been proven to be serious vectors chikungunya and yellow fever with the help of several laboratory-based experiments. Some of their typical breeding places include tree holes, large fallen leaves, small collections of water, snail shells, cut bamboo, plant axils, old tins, and used bottles.
Scientific name: Psorophoraciliata
This is a mosquito species that belongs to the Psorophora genus. It is a fairly large mosquito that is largely indigenous to the United States, particularly east of the continental divide. This mosquito is known to exhibit quite aggressive behavioral tendencies, due to which it has earned the titles, “gallinipper” and “shaggy-legged gallinipper”.
In South America, the psorophora ciliate mosquito can be commonly found in temperate or tropic environments while in North America, their range has been divided South Dakota into Texas and east to Florida and Quebec.
Compared to the other various mosquitoes of the same genus, these are quite large in size and have an average wingspan of 7-9 mm. Both the sexes within this species sport a subtle yellow color with a prominent black tip on their proboscis. Their abdomen has a paler color while the thorax is a dark brown shade coupled with a bright yellow stripe, extending all the way from the middle to each side.
In terms of behavior, they aren’t just aggressive towards animals and humans; they have also been found preying on the larvae and tadpoles of various other mosquito species.
Mosquito bites are truly irritating and so is the buzzing sound that they make as they go flying all around and above you. It is extremely important to keep all your indoor spaces mosquito-free by applying certain protective and preventive strategies that greatly repel these troublesome creatures!