The mosquito is a common and fairly widespread, two-winged insect that belongs to the Culicidae family of flies. According to the University of Florida IFAS Extension, there are over 3,500 species of mosquitoes living on the planet. Out of this number, about 275 species are present in North America.
The most common species of mosquitoes here include the Aedes albopictus, Anopheles quadrimaculatus and Aedes aegypti. The insects mostly inhabit humid tropics, subtropics, temperate to cool zones and areas with warm moist climates. The four key stages in the life of a mosquito are the egg, larva (includes various instars or stages), pupa and adult.
Mosquitoes are also well-known vectors of diseases. This fact makes them the most deadly insects in the world. The female Anopheles mosquito carries diseases such as Malaria and Encephalitis. The other diseases caused by mosquitoes include Dengue Fever, Chikungunya, Yellow Fever, Zika Virus and the West Nile Virus among others.
What plants do mosquitoes eat?
Studies indicate that male and female mosquitoes of different species feed on nectar, plant honeydew and sugary fruit juices from various plants. According to the University Of Illinois, Prairies Research Institute, the female mosquitoes are the only ones that eat blood. The blood contains essential nutrients like proteins and iron that helps the female make eggs.
After taking blood, the female mosquito usually takes a rest lasting a few days before laying its eggs. The female can lay between 100 to 400 eggs, which normally hatch within a few days. To effectively extract food blood of its victims, the female mosquito uses a thin, elongated proboscis. The serrated proboscis can tear into animal fur and thin clothing worn by humans in order to get access to the blood.
The mosquito usually masks its mission by injecting neutralizing saliva containing blood thinning properties. The chemical is designed to numb the skin and make the whole sucking experience easy and unsuspecting to the victim. If the conditions are ripe, the mosquito can suck up to 3 milligrams of blood per bite before flying away.
What animals do mosquitoes eat?
Mosquitoes generally feed on grass plants and blood. According to Terminix, the number of mosquitoes that feed on human blood is far less compared to those that feed on the blood obtained from birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals such as cattle, sheep and goats.
The birds that often fall prey to mosquitoes include sparrows, crows, robins and waterfowls like herons and ducks. When it comes to feeding time, the Aedes mosquito is a daylight biter while the Culex species of mosquito often preys on its victims at dusk and late into the dark night.
The male and female mosquitoes belonging to the Toxorhynchites genus are strictly vegetarian since they do not feed blood. There are also a number of small animals known to feed on mosquitoes; they include lizards, raccoons, dragon fly, snakes, fish, snakes and some certain bat species.
Do mosquitoes eat algae?
Even though mosquitoes are largely vegetarian, they have a bad reputation as a blood sucking habit when they turn into free flying adults. The larva, however, strictly feeds on algae and other microscopic food items found in water. The larvae eats by filtering food through their brush like feature found around the mouth area.
According to University of Illinois, Prairies Research Institute (2), Adult mosquitoes are alerted to their food by environmental factors like CO2 emissions, movement and smell or body odor. The vast majority of mosquitoes feed at dusk or dawn; however, certain species such as the Asian mosquito are also known to feed during the daytime. It is important to add that adult mosquitoes do not eat algae.
What do mosquitoes larvae eat?
The lifecycle of a mosquito begins when the eggs hatch into larvae. The larvae have a broadened head and thorax along with an elongated abdomen. It breathes through the spiracles located on their abdominal segments or a specially built siphon. The larva usually stays on the water surface to breathe, but dives under water when it is disturbed or feels threatened.
To continue developing, the larva required a rich supply of carbohydrates from various food sources, including algae, bacteria and other microbes found in water. While still living in water, a fully grown larvae metamorphosis’s into pupae, which doesn’t eat. The pupal stage often lasts between 2 to 3 days.
After a series of molts, the pupae encased inside the cocoon develops into an adult mosquito that flies freely and breathes air. The insects require still water to lay their eggs. It is worth noting that mosquitoes spend their formative days in water. Breeding mosquitoes can fly between 1 to 2 miles from their larval habitat.
However, some species of mosquitoes are known to fly as far as 20 miles away from the breeding area. During the mating time, the male mosquitoes usually locate the females through vibrations and sounds from the wings. The mosquito habitat varies widely depending on the species and environmental factors. According to the University of Florida IFAS Extension (2), the mosquito’s ecological systems include:
- Uplands ecosystems – temperate forest and dry prairies
- Freshwater wetlands – fresh water marshes, lakes, rivers and swamps.
- Coastal ecosystems – inshore marine habitats, dunes and maritime forests and coral reefs
- Aquatic ecosystems – springs, rivers and marshes.
The female mosquito can live up to 40 days or a few weeks while the male mosquito’s lifespan only lasts about one week. The lifecycle of a mosquito is determined by factors like temperature, humidity and season. Cold blooded mosquitoes generally prefer temperatures in the region of 80 degrees.
The species of mosquitoes that live in cold places have learnt to adapt to life during winter by entering diapause, a hibernation state. This usually happens when the mosquitoes sense their days are getting shorter due to the harsh weather. The survival mechanism allows them to live off the accumulated body fat for several months.
When feeding, the energy from nectar and fruits helps mosquitoes do everything from flying and living to procreating. Female mosquitoes that feed on blood can select from a wide variety of targets, including humans, birds, reptiles, amphibians and animals. The blood supplies the vital nutrients necessary for laying eggs.
The human targets include people with lots of bacteria, heavy breathers, pregnant women and persons with high body heat. Female mosquitoes have a much longer lifespan compared to their male counterpart. During the development stages, the aquatic mosquito larva feeds on microscopic particles found in water.
The growing mosquito ceases to feed when it gets into the pupal stage. However, it keeps molting as it edges towards the adult phase of its life cycle. One major oversight about mosquitoes is their role as a vector in the pollination process. This happens when they transfer pollen from one flower to the other.