FAQs

Kristen Healy  |  5/28/2013 6:53:02 PM

larvae

Photo of mosquito pupae by Ary Farajollahi

Photo of adult mosquito by Ary Farajollahi

Mosquitoes are interesting creatures. Although mosquitoes receive quite a lot of media attention each year, we receive a lot of questions about their biology, behavior and ways to protect ourselves from their bites. Here are just a few:

I heard that mosquitoes live in water. Is that true?

Mosquitoes spend half of their life swimming in water (larvae and pupae), and the other half of their life flying and resting (adult mosquitoes). Female mosquitoes will lay eggs on water or in areas that will become flooded. The eggs will then hatch in water, and the larvae (young mosquito) will swim around and feed on microbes and small particles in the water. The larvae will later become a pupa (non-feeding stage, where the mosquito is transitioning into an adult). The adult will then emerge from the pupa and fly into the air (while trying carefully not to drown in the water).

Do both male and female mosquitoes bite?

No, only the female mosquito bites. However, both males and females use plant nectar as an important source of food.

Why does a female mosquito bite?

Female mosquitoes use the proteins in blood to help produce their eggs. Most species of mosquitoes feed on plant nectar for energy.

How long does a mosquito live?

During the summer, most mosquito larvae take about 1 week to develop. When they emerge as adults, they can live an average of 2 to 3 weeks. However, many mosquitoes have a stage in their lifecycle where development is delayed. Some species might spend a whole winter as an adult, an egg or a larva. Some species might spend nearly a whole year as an egg.

How many eggs does a mosquito lay?

On average, a mosquito might lay about 100 eggs. Some mosquitoes will lay a large cluster of eggs that floats on the water (called a raft). Other species might lay a few eggs at a time in containers or moist areas that might later become flooded with water.

Do all mosquitoes bite humans?

No. In Louisiana we have over 60 species of mosquito. Each species is very different in where it lays eggs and what type of animal it uses for blood. While some species prefer to bite humans; others may feed only on birds, or small mammals, or reptiles and amphibians. However, there are some species that will bite both humans and animals. One species of mosquito, the predatory mosquito, never feeds on blood. Instead it gets all of its nutrients as an immature eating other mosquito larvae.

Do any animals rely on eating mosquitoes?

We receive this question a lot. There are no animals in nature that feed solely on mosquitoes. While bats will eat mosquitoes, they do not rely on them as a food source. Bats prefer to eat larger insects flying at night, such as moths. There are also various birds, amphibians and reptiles that will eat an occasional mosquito, but they do not depend on them for their survival. Therefore, removing mosquitoes will not affect the well-being of animals. And given that many species of mosquitoes blood-feed on birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, mosquito control can also help protect wildlife from mosquito bites and mosquito-borne diseases.

Why do some people itch after a mosquito bite?

When a mosquito injects its mouth parts into your skin, it actually spits a small amount of saliva. The saliva contains anticoagulants, which help prevent the blood from clotting. After feeding, some of the saliva (and proteins in the saliva) remain. The body's immune system then reacts to the saliva, causing the area to itch and swell.

Why are some people more attractive than others to mosquito bites?

Mosquitoes are able to locate humans from long distances by cuing into their breath (carbon dioxide that we exhale), as well as other natural body odors. As mosquitoes fly closer to their potential blood meal, they will use both body temperature and odors to locate a human. You might be more attractive to a mosquito if you are wearing dark colored clothing, if you have been active or sweating, or if you are not wearing repellent.

I thought mosquitoes only bite at night, but why am I being bitten during the day?

While it is true that most mosquitoes bite at night, dusk and dawn, some species of mosquitoes will bite during the day. The Asian tiger mosquito loves to bite during the day, especially close to your ankles. This species lays its eggs in backyard containers (bird baths, buckets, tires, bowls and other small containers). It does not fly far from its larval habitat. If you are getting bitten by this species, you should look around your yard for standing water.

Do you have a question that is not listed above? Send your question to Kristen Healy, and we will post many of your questions and responses online.
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