Everything You Need to Know About Mosquitoes
Just like ants, flies, and roaches, mosquitoes are ubiquitous little pests but particularly thrive in moist, wet, and humid areas.
Experts consider mosquitoes to be some of the deadliest animals on the planet. Sure, the bites are more of a nuisance than anything else. But it’s the diseases that come with those bites that are most worrisome.
What are Mosquitoes?
Mosquitoes belong to the insect Order Diptera or insects that use two wings to fly. There are about 3,500 species of mosquitoes described in scientific literature, of which only about 200 bite humans.
Some species may pester just reptiles and amphibians; others almost exclusively bite birds. So, while not all mosquitoes transmit life-threatening diseases, all of them are just plain annoying.
Mosquitoes have a slender segmented body, a pair of wings, three pairs of long hair-like legs, feathery antennae, and elongated mouthparts. Adult females of most mosquito species have a proboscis that can pierce the skin of a host so they can feed on their blood. Mosquitoes get protein and iron from blood so they can primarily breed and produce eggs.
As a species, mosquitoes are millions of years old, with the oldest known fossil records found in amber from 79 million years ago. Very few morphological changes have been found in these mosquito fossils compared to their more modern counterparts.
How long do mosquitoes live?
The mosquito life cycle consists of egg, larva, pupa, and adult stages. Each of the stages takes about 5 to 14 days and can vary depending on the ambient temperature, available moisture, and so on.
Mosquitos require a body of water to deposit their eggs, and so they do on the surface of standing water or right on the edge of it. Just a few inches of water is all it takes for a female to deposit her eggs. Ponds, puddles, and stagnant water deposits in pots, old tires, tree stumps, or old jars are ideal breeding spots for mosquitoes.
In a few days, these eggs hatch into motile larvae (also called wrigglers) that feed on aquatic algae and organic material in the water. A few days after, the larva takes a pupa, where it takes a more comma-like appearance, and then soon emerges as a full-grown adult mosquito.
Under the right circumstances, an adult mosquito may live five to six months. As far as bugs and insects go, that’s a pretty long lifespan. Typically, however, males live up to seven days, and females up to about a week or two.
Fun fact: some species of mosquito can enter diapause, which means they can halt their growth and development (usually when there isn’t enough water, or when it’s freezing outside) and then carry on with their lives when it’s wet enough and warm enough to go on.
It is for this reason that certain species of mosquitoes (such as the Aedes) are hard to eradicate. Their eggs can survive for months even when dried out, and then hatch when they suddenly get flooded with water, such as when it rains.
Mosquitoes and Mosquito Bites
Mosquitoes can sense you (as well as other animals) through the carbon dioxide you exhale. These critters have developed a keen sensitivity to CO2 in the air, with receptors able to detect carbon dioxide up to 75 feet away.
With these highly specialized receptors, female mosquitoes follow the trail of CO2 back to its source, so it can even track you down in the dark.
That relatively high-pitched buzzing sound you hear that announces the presence of mosquitoes? What you’re hearing is the beating of the mosquito’s wings, which flaps at about 300 to 600 times a second.
Mosquitoes count on landing on you unnoticed so that it can use its proboscis to puncture your skin. In particular, the female mosquito’s saliva not only has a lubricant that lets the proboscis easily glide into the skin; it also contains a potent anticoagulant that allows her more easily suck up blood.
It is also this saliva that triggers a local allergic response; hence, the itching and the bump on your skin after a mosquito bites you.
However, only females bite humans (and animals). Female mosquitoes need your blood to provide protein and iron to reproduce and have eggs. Males, however, do not need your blood, and so head for flowers for their nectar instead.
Fun fact: mosquitoes can also sense the lactic acid and octenol found in our breath and sweat, as well as the heat and humidity that surrounds our bodies. Combined with their advanced carbon dioxide sensitivity, they can easily zero in on human hosts to pester.
What Sort of Diseases Are Carried by Mosquitoes?
The biggest danger posed by mosquitoes is that they are effective vectors of spreading some of the world’s deadliest diseases. Mosquitoes are responsible for more human deaths than any other animal that in 2015 alone, it has caused 438,000 deaths – and that’s just for malaria.
It is through the mosquito’s saliva that pathogens are transferred to the host during the bite. Mosquitoes usually have picked up these pathogens from a host they have just recently fed on. And this is how mosquitoes continue to be instrumental in transmitting blood-borne diseases.
Three species are the main culprit in the spread of human diseases:
- Anopheles mosquitoes are the only species known to carry malaria. However, they can also transmit filariasis (also called elephantiasis) and encephalitis.
- In addition to filariasis and encephalitis, Culex mosquitoes can also carry the West Nile virus.
- Aedes mosquitoes can transmit encephalitis as well but are more notorious for spreading yellow fever and dengue, as well as chikungunya and Zika viruses.
Where Do Mosquitoes Hide?
Where do these pesky buggers hide? Mosquitoes tend to find spots that are moist and cool to rest. Perfect places in and around your home might include:
- Trees and shrubs, specifically on the underside of foliage leaves, away from the sunlight and winds.
- Tall grasses in the backyard, which makes it wise to keep your lawn regularly mowed.
- Under decks. Especially if there are puddles, or if it’s a damp, moist space.
- Gutters and eavestroughs, which are rarely cleaned and may have standing water, are dark and damp.
- Ponds and puddles. Remember, mosquitoes lay their eggs in still water. Drain standing water around your property, and properly treat ornamental ponds.
- Planters and pots.
- Old tires and tire swings.
- Piles of leaves, grass, or wood.
- Pet bowls
- Tree stumps, especially the hollowed-out ones with dark, damp crevices for hiding and resting.
|Fun fact: Aedes mosquitoes don’t have to wait for dusk; they’ll seek you out for a bit, even in the middle of the day, and even inside your home.|
The best time to avoid mosquitoes is in the afternoon when temperatures are warmest, and the critters tend to hide and rest in cooler spots.
How Do I Get Rid of Mosquitoes Around the House?
Sometimes, swatting mosquitoes isn’t enough. The most sensible way of keeping the mosquito population under control is to eliminate their breeding sites- at least those in and around your property.
Remember, mosquitoes need standing water to breed, so tip over those old cans, empty plant pots, buckets to drain the water. You can fill puddles in with sand. Take a walk around your home and do a quick inspection yourself. It would help if you were vigilant about dumping any standing water every few days.
You can use plants that naturally repel mosquitoes all over your home.
If you have a large yard, a swimming pool, a pond, or a pool of water nearby, consider calling in the professionals to have a look and give you some options on preventing a population explosion of mosquitoes in your backyard.
Some may have fogger machines that attract mosquitoes with CO2 and then trap these nuisance pests, but repellants for your yard and self might be the easiest and most cost-effective way to go.
For more information about getting rid of mosquitoes, get in touch with the good people of Rocklin Pest Control Services. They can give you a quick assessment of your mosquito situation and recommend the best options available so your home can be pest-free once more.
Get started with a no-cost inspection by calling +1 916-630-1212 today.