Mosquitoes are tiny winged insects that range in length from 1/8 to 3/9th of an inch. Like most insects, their body is segmented into a thorax and an abdomen. They have two big, prominent eyes, six very thin, stick-like eggs, and feathery antennae.
They come in a variety of colors, from greyish brown to blue. They have a protruding and long mouth part for sucking, known as the proboscis, and scales on their wings. These two features are exclusive to mosquitoes and are used to differentiate them from other flies.
TYPES OF MOSQUITOES
An Adult Anopheles has dark brown to jet-black colorings on its body. When idle, its stomach slants upward instead of being even with the surrounding surface. The female Anopheles mosquito undergoes mating several times during the course of her short life.
She can only reproduce after having a blood meal and has the capability to produce eggs in the thousands. She is widely known as the Malaria mosquito because she is considered the primary carrier of the pathogen.
Culex Tarsalis has prominent white bands on its mouthparts and tarsal joints. It also has distinct white markings on its abdomen and legs. The male Culex feeds on plant fluids and nectar. When the female is all-set to mate, she sucks the blood of mammals and prefers to show itself around dawn or dusk.
It also requires a blood meal to lay eggs like most female mosquitoes. The females mostly feed on birds during spring and seek a mammalian host during the summer. This species is responsible for transmitting diseases like the West Nile virus and encephalitis.
AEDES mosquito is easily identifiable because of its black and white bands on its legs and abdomen. It is found fluttering about during the day in cool-shady areas. Females depend on humans for their blood-meal before producing eggs. It is responsible for the spread of yellow fever, dengue fever, and chikungunya.
Mosquitoes are voracious suckers. After a single blood-meal, a mosquito’s weight can increase by a staggering 150%. While most species prefer to feed on birds and mammals, they are equally capable of surviving on nectar and plant juices.
Despite the popular belief, not all species of mosquitoes bite. Only female mosquitoes have a hunger for blood-meals because, without it, they cannot reproduce. Human blood has essential amino acids that are vital for the growth of mosquito eggs. So the old-age myth that mosquitoes suck the blood of humans to satisfy their own appetites is wrong. They are fully capable of doing that by feeding on plant fluids and nectar.
Mosquitoes locate their targets with the help of sensors located on the antennae. Their antennae are able to detect sensitive levels of carbon dioxide exhaled by humans. Bulkier people tend to attract mosquitoes more than people of average weight, as they expel more carbon dioxide in the air.
Mosquitoes can live in almost any environment. The only condition that they’re unable to survive in is the intense cold. Their preferred habitats are forests, swamps, tall-bushy grasses, and wet grounds.
Water is essential for their survival. Some species, like Culex pipiens, prefer to nest in clean water, whereas others, like the northern house mosquito, prefer polluted water.
LIFE CYCLE AND REPRODUCTION
Mosquitoes undergo 4 stages in their life cycle ― Egg, Larva, Pupa, and Adult. Female mosquitoes mate only a few hours after transforming into adults, whereas males require at least 24 hours to get ready.
Mating usually occurs in mid-air. After the female mosquito acquires a blood-meal from a mammalian host, she lays the eggs on the surface of stagnant water, or in a place where there is adequate rainwater to flood the eggs.
The larva hatches into the rainwater and nourishes on bacteria and other microscopic organisms, after which it develops into a pupa. The pupa, unlike the larva, doesn’t feed but continues to reside in the water. Finally, the pupa develops into a fully-grown adult mosquito, prepared to suck the blood of us unfortunate humans.
The time period of each stage of a mosquito’s life cycle depends upon various factors, such as temperature, species, and humidity. For instance, the Culex mosquito takes 2 weeks to complete its lifecycle at 70° F, but only takes 10 days at 80°F. Some species might even take 1 month to develop into adult mosquitoes in unfavorable conditions.