Mosquitoes; The Complete Buzzing Facts Part II
Welcome to Part II (as we like to say, part "deux")...Learn, learn, learn! And learn about Zone Protects Insect Repellents.
Most mosquitoes emerge from their watery breeding ground and stay pretty close to home. But some, like the salt marsh mosquitoes, will fly lengthy distances to find a suitable place to live, with all the nectar and blood they could want to drink.
- All mosquitoes require water to breed—but not much water.
Just a few inches of water is all it takes for a female to deposit her eggs. Tiny mosquito larva develop quickly in bird baths, roof gutters, and old tires dumped in vacant lots. Some species can breed in puddles left after a rainstorm. If you want to keep mosquitoes under control around your home, you need to be vigilant about dumping any standing water every few days. Females even lay their eggs in damp soil that’s prone to flooding.
- Mosquitoes have large families but short lifetimes.
Female mosquitoes can lay up to 300 eggs at a time. Usually, the eggs are deposited in clusters – called rafts – on the surface of stagnant water. The female will lay eggs up to three times before they die so that could be nearly 1000 guests over for Thanksgiving dinner!
An adult mosquito may live 5-6 months
Few probably make it that long, given our tendency to slap them silly when they land on us. But in the right circumstances, an adult mosquito has quite a long life expectancy, as bugs go.
- Mosquitoes can detect carbon dioxide from 75 feet away.
Carbon dioxide, which humans and other animals produce, is the key signal to mosquitoes that a potential blood meal is near. They've developed a keen sensitivity to CO2 in the air. Once a female senses CO2 in the vicinity, she flies back and forth through the CO2 plume until she locates her victim.
In addition to CO2, they are also attracted to the lactic acid and octanol in human breath and sweat.
- Mosquitoes are heat seeking missiles that like beer.
As our bodies emit heat and humidity, the mosquito hones in with infrared sensors. They also have been known to have a preference for beer drinkers. So, if you are working outside on a hot day, breathing hard, sweating and drinking a cold beer, you will be highly desirable to the female species…of mosquito.
- High noon is too hot for mosquitoes.
The best time to avoid mosquitoes is in the afternoon, when temperatures are hottest and the insects rest in cooler spots.
- We only have a few weapons against mosquitoes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists only four chemicals as being effective for repelling mosquitoes: DEET, Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (or its synthetic version, called PMD) and IR3535. See more detailed information in our Zone Repellents whitepaper, “Repellent Chemistry and Man's Fight against the Bite”. The best repellent, however, is the Picaridin-based Zone Insect Repellent.
Bacteria can be used to kill mosquito larvae. Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) is a commercially-produced bacteria, sold in pellet and powder form, that can be laced into water where larvae live. It produces proteins that turn into toxins after the larvae eat it.
Bats do not eat mosquitoes. At least, not very many of them. Mosquitoes make up less than 1 percent of a bat's diet. And purple martins, a bird popularly believed to be a mosquito predator, eat very few mosquitoes. They prefer dragonflies and other insects.
The two main mosquito predators are fish and dragonflies. Gambusia, or mosquitofish, feed on mosquito larvae and are used all over the world to help control mosquito populations. Dragonfly larvae, called nymphs, eat mosquito larvae, and adult dragonflies prey on adult mosquitoes. Some towns in Maine release dragonflies every summer as a natural form of mosquito control.
- We don’t need to kill all mosquitoes, just control them.
If we eliminate mosquitoes there would be negative effects on the ecosystem. The loss of an insect that is eaten by spiders, salamanders, frogs, fish and other insects would not be good.
- Mosquito transmitted diseases are deadly.
Malaria infects around 250 million people each year worldwide and kills about one million, mostly children in Africa. Millions of people alive today will die of a mosquito-transmitted disease. Other top killers include dengue, yellow fever, and West Nile virus. But they won’t die of AIDS. HIV-infected humans actually have very few virus particles in their bloodstream, and should a mosquito suck one up, it gets killed by the mosquito’s digestive system.
Read all about mosquito transmitted diseases and statistics in the Zone Repellents whitepaper, “Diseases - Mosquitoes and Ticks Can Put You at Dis-ease”.
- There are statues of mosquitoes.
The world’s largest statue of a mosquito is a roadside attraction in Komarno, Manitoba, the Mosquito Capital of Canada. (“Komarno” is Ukrainian for “mosquito.” What’s up with that?) Sculpted in 1984, it is made of steel and has a wingspan of 15 feet. It’s also a weathervane, swiveling in the wind. It is hard to get upset about that.
- Honey, we shrunk the mosquitoes but not their appetites.
Millions of years ago, mosquitoes were three times as large as they are today. Eyes occupy most of the surface of a mosquito’s head. Not eyes into which one might wish lovingly to peer, these compound-lensed organs deliver infrared images of heat patterns emanating from a body. Like the alien in Predator.
Mosquitoes have six legs. They also have a head, thorax and abdomen. On the head are two large compound eyes, two ocelli (simple eyes), two antennae and a proboscis. Two large, scaled wings sprout from the thorax.
- What’s in a name?
Central America’s so-called Mosquito Coast (a thin strip of land along the Caribbean in Honduras and Nicaragua) is not named for the insect, but after a mispronunciation of the indigenous Miskito Indians.
- Mosquitoes a-plenty in the U.S.
There are about 174 species of mosquitoes in the United States, according to Joseph M. Conlon, a retired Navy entomologist who is a technical adviser to the nonprofit American Mosquito Control Association. Texas has the most species, with about 85, and West Virginia has the least, with roughly 24. New York City alone has more than 50 species.
- Mosquitoes sucked the blood of dinosaurs.
Mosquitoes have been around since the Jurassic period. That makes them about 210 million years old. They've been mentioned throughout history, including in the works of Aristotle around 300 B.C. and in writings by Sidonius Apollinaris in 467 B.C.
That rounds out the facts and factoids about mosquitoes. Although it is a bad idea to completely eradicate these little creatures (and impossible), they are still a huge nuisance and deadly enemy to the human race.
Please read the Zone Repellents whitepaper, “Mosquito Prevention - What Your Mother Never Told You” for detailed information about what we can do to live safely with these insects.
Appendix: Mosquito Species Identification
Aedes Aegypti: Yellow Fever Mosquito
They primarily bite humans, rather than other animals, and they like to feed indoors. The combination makes them particularly dangerous when it comes to spreading disease.
They are also fidgety. They will eat several partial meals on multiple victims, called sip-feeding. It is one way they pass pathogens.
Females draw blood to nourish their eggs. They prefer to lay them in clean water, including birdbaths, clogged gutters, pet bowls, bottle caps and even shower drains. The eggs stick to the sides of containers and can survive drying out.
The species rarely flies more than a block in its lifetime. It is mostly found in the South and the Southwest. But it has been found in New Jersey, southern Connecticut and New York City, though not necessarily in large populations.
Aedes Albopictus: Asian Tiger Mosquito
The Asian tiger mosquito is known for spreading the dengue and chikungunya viruses. It has also tested positive for Zika, West Nile, Eastern equine encephalitis and Japanese encephalitis.
Culex Pipiens: Northern House Mosquito
A nondescript brownish insect, with a rounded abdomen.
This is usually the one you will hear buzzing in your ear at night. It will overwinter in your attic if it can.
This species feeds on humans, other mammals and many types of birds, which are the main carriers of West Nile virus. The mosquitoes typically lay their eggs in dirty water, ditches and shallow ruts.
Dozens of species have been known to carry West Nile, but the Culex pipiens is the primary culprit.
Distinguishable by its rounded abdomen and light-colored band around its proboscis.
They breed in “enormous numbers,” Mr. Conlon said, typically in agricultural runoff and in ditches.
In Western states, this species is the primary carrier in rural areas for West Nile virus. The mosquitoes have also been associated with Western equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis and California encephalitis.
The species is abundant in California, Utah and the western half of North America.
Anopheles Quadrimaculatus: Common Malaria Mosquito
The dark brown insects are recognizable by long palpi, or tasting organs, which are almost the same length as its proboscis, or mouthparts. It rests on surfaces diagonally, with its head down and abdomen jutting into the air.
Females feed on humans and other mammals, usually in the evening. They prefer to lay eggs in freshwater ponds, streams and lakes.
Only the Anopheles genus carries malaria. In Africa, Anopheles gambiae is the primary offender. In the Eastern United States, it is the Anopheles quadrimaculatus.
These straw-color insects are noted for the way their abdomens lift into the air when they sit. Their wings are dotted with dark spots. The female’s clear belly will turn red and swell when full of blood.
Females usually come out at dusk, and fly farther than other species. They will travel from rural areas into homes or barnyards to feed. They prefer to lay eggs in leafy, sunlit pools and drains, rice fields and ponds.
They were once the primary carriers of malaria in agricultural areas on the West Coast, especially California. While malaria is gone, health officials worry that local mosquitoes could pick it up again from an infected human and set off an outbreak.