16 Interesting Mosquito Facts
They aren’t the most beloved creature in the animal kingdom, but mosquitoes sure are interesting! These prolific biters are found all over the world, and while they are considered a nuisance by many (okay–most), you can’t deny that they are fascinating and diverse creatures. Get ready for 16 mosquito facts you may not have known:
1. Only Females Bite
- Female mosquitoes are the only ones that bite, seeking your blood as a protein source before they lay their eggs. Protein helps mosquitoes produce, develop, and lay eggs. Male mosquitoes, not bearing the burden of reproduction, only feed on flowers. Females will also feed on nectar when they are not actively reproducing.
2. They Are the World’s Deadliest Animals
- Mosquitoes are incredibly deadly, not because of their size or direct killing abilities, but because they have the potential to transmit dozens of damaging potentially deadly diseases. The most common and lethal mosquito-borne diseases include malaria, dengue, Zika, and encephalitis.
Mosquitoes are estimated to be indirectly responsible for over one million deaths each year–and that’s not even including animal deaths from diseases such as heartworm.
3. They Are Slow Fliers-But They Try Hard!
- Mosquitoes don’t fly around as quickly as they appear. These insects can only reach speeds of about one mile per hour, which is a plus if you’re working double-duty with the fly swatter. Other insect species, such as butterflies, honeybees, and locusts, all fly much more quickly than mosquitoes. That being said, mosquitoes try hard, their tiny wings beat nearly six hundred times in a single second. That’s why they produce such an obnoxious buzzing sound as they are flying near your head.
4. They Have Odd Mating Behaviors
- To mate, mosquitoes engage in a ritualistic dance that involves rapidly beating their wings to attract females. In this process, they synchronize their wing beats, causing females and males to drum their wings in harmony. This interesting pattern ensures that males and females are matching up and reproducing appropriately.
5. They Love Carbon Dioxide
- Mosquitoes seek you out by your scent, as well as through the air you breathe. When humans exhale, they release carbon dioxide. Simply put, the more carbon dioxide you exhale (which tends to be higher if you are a man or a pregnant woman), the more attractive you are to mosquitoes.
- Mosquitoes use carbon dioxide to locate their feasts, utilizing a specialized organ known as a maxillary pump to detect your scent. Some mosquitoes can detect carbon dioxide from seventy-five feet away.
6. Some Types of Mosquitoes Love to Travel
- Salt marsh mosquitoes can live up to a hundred miles away from their hatching site. This doesn’t sound like much, but for a mosquito that’s quite a distance. Salt marsh mosquitos tend to fly long distances to find suitable breeding grounds.
7. They Need Water to Breed
- All mosquitoes need water to breed. This is why you may notice more mosquitoes when the weather has been exceptionally rainy, as well as in swampy or marshy areas. You can help reduce the number of mosquitoes on your property by eliminating areas of standing water.
- Mosquito eggs only need a small amount of stagnant water to survive, so draining your gutters, old tires, and birdbaths can help reduce breeding populations of these insects.
8. The World is Full of Them
- There are over 3,000 types of mosquitoes throughout the world. Within the United States, over one hundred and seventy-five species have been detected. The most common are the Anopheles quadrimaculatus, Culex pipiens, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. The Anopheles is one of the most deadly, as it is a vector for malaria, and the other three are just as deadly, carrying various types of encephalitis.
- Looking to avoid mosquitoes altogether? While this might be an impossible task, as mosquitoes can be found just about everywhere, consider moving to West Virginia, the state with the fewest species of mosquitoes (only twenty-six). The worst state to live? Texas, with eighty-five, followed closely by Florida, with eighty.
9. Some Mosquitoes Don’t Bite at All
- Not all mosquitoes prefer to drink human blood, and some don’t bite at all, preferring instead to feed on fruit and nectar. Of those that bite live hosts, some species prefer other animals, like frogs and birds.
10. They Drink A LOT of Blood
- Mosquitoes can drink up to three times their body weight in blood. While these insects don’t have teeth, they instead bite with a long mouthpiece known as a proboscis. This proboscis pierces the skin to locate a healthy capillary before drawing blood.
11. They Are Prolific Breeders
- Each female mosquito can lay up to three hundred eggs at a time. Although some mosquitoes will lay eggs individually, most do so in clusters called rafts. These are typically laid on stagnant water. These eggs can hatch in as little as an inch of stagnant water, taking just a few days or weeks to hatch. Mosquitoes spend the first ten days of their lives in water, breathing oxygen from the surface. Females can lay eggs three times in their life spans.
Mosquito larvae in a mosquito breeding site.
12. Mosquitoes Hibernate
- Mosquitoes tend to prefer temperatures over eighty degrees and will shut down at temperatures lower than fifty degrees. While not all species of mosquitoes will hibernate, those that do will spend their winters in holes. Others lay their eggs in freezing water before death. The eggs can survive in the frigid water until it is warm enough for them to hatch.
13. They Don’t Live for Very Long But Have Been Around Forever
- Mosquitoes date back to the Triassic Period, making them one of Earth’s longest residents. Luckily, each mosquito doesn’t hang around for long, with most living less than two months. Some varieties can last six months, which is actually much longer than other insect species, but not long enough to start planning out a retirement.
14. The World MIGHT Be Okay Without Them
- Some scientists have suggested that eliminating mosquitoes altogether would not be the end of plant and animal life as we know it. Because mosquitoes are vectors for such damaging diseases, scientists have examined what the world would look like if they all were exterminated.
While most agree it would not be disastrous, some experts worry that organisms that feed on mosquitoes, such as spiders, fish, frogs, and other insects, might be negatively impacted.
15. There are Few Ways to Repel Them
- While you can rely on chemicals such as DEET, lemon eucalyptus oil, picaridin, and IR3535 to repel mosquitoes, there are few ways to repel them for good. Most of what attracts mosquitoes is beyond your control, such as how much carbon dioxide and lactic acid you excrete. Instead, it may be easier just to avoid mosquitoes by staying inside when they are most active-dawn, dusk, and evening hours–and venturing out during hot afternoons when they are most likely to be held up in a cool spot.
16. Here’s Why Their Bites REALLY Itch
- Female mosquito saliva contains a powerful anticoagulant that allows her to suck up her meal more efficiently. This chemical activates your body’s histamine response, which is why your skin gets an itchy bump after you’ve been bitten.
You Aren’t Alone!
While some people may seem to never get bitten by mosquitoes, nearly every person will suffer from a nasty, itchy mosquito bite at some point in their lives. Avoid mosquitoes whenever possible, and when you must venture out, be sure to cover up with appropriate repellents to reduce your exposure and to reduce your likelihood of contracting dangerous mosquito-borne diseases. It’s important to know about your enemies, these mosquito facts should give you a better understanding of the annoying pest.