Identification and Life Cycle
There are about 230 species of mosquitoes found in the United States, but the three most common species are Aedes albopicus, Culex pipens, and Anopheles quadrimaculatus. These flying and biting insects are in the order of Diptera (“two wings”), or flies.
The wings are narrow and have a fringe of scales on the margins and veins. They have three pairs of long, slender legs and two long antennae. Their long tubular mouthparts form an elongated beak for sucking up fluids.
Mosquitoes have four stages in their life cycle; egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The female mosquito lays her eggs usually at night, sticking them together one at a time to form a raft from 200 to 300 eggs on the surface of water. A raft of eggs look similar to a speck of floating soot. Once they hatch, they are in their larval phase for 7-14 days. They feed on organic debris and microorganisms in the water while molting their exoskeleton several times until they become pupae. The mosquitoes will stay in this phase for about two days until they exit their pupal skin and fly off once their wings are dry to find their first meal. The average life span is two weeks.
Habits and Damage
All mosquitoes must have water in which to complete their life cycle. They lay their eggs on the surface of fresh or stagnant water. These places can be in tree holes, swimming pools, creeks, ditches, irrigated pastures, etc.
They are considered a nuisance and can sometimes be a public health threat by transmitting diseases such as yellow fever, dengue, and West Nile Encephalitis, which is a virus carried from infected birds to people by mosquitios.
Mosquitoes do not only feed on blood. Mosquitoes get the nutrients from the nectar of flowers and plants. Blood is the only nutrient needed for the development of their eggs, so only the females will bite a human or animal (birds and mammals) to get a blood meal before she lays eggs. The males feed on nectar, and other plant juices. Mosquitoes do have predators such as birds, dragonflies, and spiders.
They can sense body chemicals when found in excess on the skin’s surface, such as the lactic acid in perspiration. A person’s reaction to a bite will vary. Some show very little signs of being bitten, and in some it triggers an allergic reaction from its saliva that causes redness, swelling and itching. Wearing dark colored clothing can capture heat and cause more perspiration making this more attractive to mosquitoes. They are also attracted to floral detergents, fabric softeners, and other scented hygiene products.
Prevention and Management
The best strategy to manage mosquitoes is prevention. An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program can help manage mosquitoes for a pest-free environment.
Control mosquitoes by removing their breeding grounds. They like shallow water and can breed in a variety of permanent or temporary bodies of water around your home. It is important to look for potential breeding sites such as in rain gutters, cups, cans, boat covers, tarps, tires, garbage and recycling containers, and birdbaths.
The following steps can be taken to help prevent or reduce a potential problem with mosquitoes.
- Install weather stripping around windows & doors.
- Repair holes in window screens & make sure that screens & windows close tightly.
- Properly install drain spouts to carry water away from the foundation without leaving puddles.
- Seal spaces around window-unit and wall-unit air conditioners.
- Empty out standing water from containers in the yard, including recycling bins, tires, and tarps.
- Clean debris from rain gutters early in spring and check them regularly. A large number of mosquitoes can result from clogged gutters.
- Keep swimming pools clean & treated. Empty childrenâ€™s pools and turn them over when not in use. Mosquitoes can breed in standing water.
- Stock ornamental ponds with goldfish to reduce mosquito breeding. Certain goldfish, dragonflies & damselflies are predators.
- Walk around your property after it rains. Look for poor drainage landscape areas that are not draining well.