Whether you enjoy backyard barbecues or backpacking, cycling or just sitting by the
pool, summer means it's time to get outside. But nothing spoils the fun faster than
one very tiny creature: the mosquito. Not only are mosquitoes a nuisance, leaving
people peppered with itchy red welts and driving them indoors, but they can also
carry diseases that pose a threat to your family's and pet's health.
Mosquitoes are scientifically classified as True Flies. Just like their relatives
-- the ommon housefly, gnats and horseflies -- mosquitoes have two wings. Mosquitoes
thrive in moist and relatively warm environments, and typically feed on nectar or
other sugar sources. Most female mosquitoes also require a blood meal from time to
About 200 mosquito species occur in the United States, with more than 2,500 species
thriving worldwide, according to a study by Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University.
These species are classified into a number of generic groups such as Aedes, Culex,
Anopheles, and Ochlerotatus. Mosquitoes can live anywhere from salt marshes to stagnant
water, and they are often found in urban areas.
Mosquitoes go through three life stages before most of us realize they're around.
First, adult females lay eggs on the surface of shallow water or on damp soil subject
to flooding. Depending on the species, some eggs will hatch within 48 hours while
others will survive subzero winters.
When the environment is suitable, mosquito larvae emerge from the eggs. Commonly
called "wigglers," larvae survive by eating microorganisms in the water and breathing
oxygen from the surface through a breathing tube. This stage of development typically
lasts from four to 14 days.
Next, the mosquitoes become pupae, or "tumblers." This non-feeding stage, which lasts
one to four days, is similar to the cocoon stage before caterpillars become butterflies.
After emerging as an adult, the mosquito rests on the surface of water for about
two days, allowing the body and wings to dry before flying off to mate and feed.
Adult mosquitoes usually live two weeks to a month, meaning that generations of mosquitoes
occur over the season. Subfreezing temperatures will kill most existing adult mosquitoes
at the beginning of the cold weather season.
Why mosquitoes bug us
While all mosquitoes feed on nectar and other sugary sources, most female mosquitoes
also require blood meals, and some will fly for miles to find it. Most biting mosquitoes
prefer horses, cattle, birds or small animals, but humans, unfortunately, are also
on the menu. Mosquitoes use carbon dioxide, moisture, colour, and movement to help
locate their prey. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is studying hundreds of naturally
occurring chemical compounds on human skin to try to isolate which ones appeal to