Mosquitoes are a family of small, midge-like flies. Although a few species are harmless or even useful to humanity, most are a nuisance because they suck blood from vertebrates, many of them attacking humans. In feeding on blood various species of mosquitoes transmit some of the most harmful human and livestock diseases. Some authorities argue accordingly that mosquitoes are the most dangerous animals on earth.
Like all flies, mosquitoes go through four stages in their life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. In most species, adult females lay their eggs in standing water; some lay eggs near the water’s edge; others attach their eggs to aquatic plants. The first three stages—egg, larva and pupa—are largely aquatic. These stages typically last 5–14 days depending on the species and the ambient temperature. Eggs hatch to become larvae, which grow until they are able to change into pupae. The adult mosquito emerges from the mature pupa as it floats at the water’s surface. Bloodsucking species, depending on type, gender, and weather conditions, can live as adults from as little as a week to as long as several months.
Typically, both male and female mosquitoes feed on nectar and plant juices, but in many species the mouthparts of the females are adapted for piercing the skin of animal hosts and sucking their blood as ectoparasites. Both plant materials and blood are useful sources of energy in the form of sugars, and blood also supplies more concentrated nutrients, such as lipids, but the most important function of blood meals is to obtain proteins as material for egg production.
With regard to host location, female mosquitoes hunt their blood host by detecting organic substances such as carbon dioxide and 1-octen-3-ol produced from the host, and through optical recognition. Mosquitoes prefer some people over others. The preferred victim’s sweat simply smells better than others because of the proportions of the carbon dioxide, octenol and other compounds that make up body odor. The powerful semiochemical that triggers the mosquito’s keen sense of smell is nonanal, which is a fruity and floral odor naturally produced by the body that is used in flavors and perfume. A large part of the mosquito’s sense of smell, or olfactory system, is devoted to sniffing out blood sources.
Mosquitoes can act as a vector for many disease-causing viruses and parasites. Infected mosquitoes carry these organisms from person to person without exhibiting symptoms themselves.
Mosquito-borne diseases include:
- Viral diseases, such as yellow fever, dengue fever and Chikungunya. Dengue fever is the most common cause of fever in travelers returning from the Caribbean, Central America, and South Central Asia. This disease is spread through the bites of infected mosquitoes and cannot be spread person to person.
- Lymphatic filariasis (the main cause of elephantiasis)
- West Nile virus
- Tularemia, a bacterial disease
At least two million people annually die of these diseases, and the morbidity rates are many times higher.
We offer several different methods for mosquito control. Please contact us for more details and pricing.