We all know the familiar buzz … that little high-pitched buzz that signals a mosquito is nearby and out for blood. They aren’t just annoying little pests, looking to bite; they’re disease-carrying threats to your health.
Mosquitoes are true flies, which means they have two wings, one set. All other insect orders have four wings (or none). And here’s something you might not have guessed: There are more than 3,600 species of mosquitoes in the world! In the U.S., there are around 170 species, including several introduced species like the Asian tiger mosquito.
Their life cycle starts with eggs laid singly or in clumps. Most are deposited on the water surface, but others are placed in sites just above where water may collect. That way, when it rains, the water level rises to the eggs, and they hatch. When the eggs hatch, the little larvae live in the water and are called “wrigglers,” due to the way they move. They use a special tube at the end of their abdomen to pierce the water’s surface and get air.
Later, they pupate (called “tumblers”), and the adult emerges to start the whole process over again. Each species has a slightly different cycle, but some species can develop from egg to adult in as little as two weeks. Adult females typically live around a month.
Mosquitoes need water to develop. Many species prefer still, stagnant waters with decomposing material like grasses and branches in them. Others are considered container breeders. Any standing water — like birdbaths, potted plant saucers, old tires and more — can provide enough habitat. It is often said that some species only need a soda cap of water to successfully develop.
While mosquitos can’t be entirely avoided, you can lessen the possibility of mosquitos choosing you for their next meal. Read on to find out more about mosquitoes and mosquito bites.
What Do Mosquitoes Eat?
For most species of mosquitoes, females need a blood meal. They use their piercing mouthparts to penetrate the skin, then suck up the blood as if through a straw. This provides the proteins they need to lay their eggs. They can — and often do — bite repeatedly.
Not all mosquitoes bite people, though. Some mosquitoes don’t even bite mammals, but instead feed on reptiles, birds, even fish.
Male mosquitos, on the other hand, feed on nectar and other plant juices. Male mosquitoes have a shorter lifespan than female mosquitos, and pose little harm to humans. Female mosquitoes also feed on nectar and sweet liquids to give them energy.
Those mosquitoes that feed on humans need to find their prey. They do so by using chemical, visual and heat cues. They are attracted to the carbon dioxide that people breathe out, as well as body heat. Also, they are particularly attracted to the color blue. There are other human scents that are especially appealing, and researchers have found that those with type O blood are more attractive to female mosquitoes.
Ahp's Bug Pro Chelle Hartzer says:
Mosquito larvae live in water and eliminating the water source can eliminate the mosquitoes.
Why Do Mosquito Bites Itch?
A mosquito’s system is built to be an amazing feeding machine. Adult female mosquitoes are equipped with specialized mouthparts. During feeding, some of the mosquito’s saliva is transferred to its host. This saliva contains anticoagulants, so the blood doesn’t clot. Several components of the mosquito’s bite essentially stop their prey from feeling their bite so they can feed in peace. They want all the blood they can get before you swat at them. Other components are what cause the welts, itches and sometimes blisters.
When a person is bitten by a mosquito, the immune systems release histamine, which helps white blood cells get to the bite site to fight off the chemicals injected by the mosquito. This histamine response is what causes the itchiness and inflammation associated with mosquito bites. Of course, everyone reacts differently to mosquito bites. Some people have a more aggressive reaction, with more redness, itching and swelling, while other people have almost no reaction at all.
Are Mosquitos Dangerous?
The fact that their bites are annoying and itchy isn’t the only reason you should avoid mosquito bites. Mosquitoes act as vectors for many disease-causing pathogens and parasites. The CDC lists 13 viruses and three parasites that mosquitoes transmit. Of those, West Nile virus and dengue are of among the most severe.
Worldwide, more than 4 million people per year contract mosquito-borne disease, with approximately 1 million dying from one of those diseases. Malaria is a huge concern, particularly in developing countries because of the high mortality rate.
It’s not just people who should avoid mosquitoes. Our pets are at risk, too. Mosquitoes can transmit heartworm to dogs, and the American Veterinary Medical Association estimates around one million dogs are infected. Without treatment, it is fatal. Cats can sometimes be infected as well.
Ahp's Bug Pro Chelle Hartzer says:
It’s estimated that more than one million people die each year from diseases transmitted by mosquitoes.
What You Can Do About Mosquitoes
It’s important to protect yourself and your family from mosquitoes.
Here’s how you can prevent mosquitoes in your yard:
- Eliminate as much standing water as possible. Check for:
- Overwatered plants with water in the saucers, as well as birdbaths and ponds.
- Clogged gutters and downspouts.
- Clutter that’s holding water, like old tires, unused plant pots and water hoses.
- Low spots in the lawn that hold water from irrigation or watering systems.
- Keep an eye on flowering plants. If possible, keep them some distance from areas where the family gathers or plays. Both male and female mosquitoes feed on nectar, so flowers will attract them.
- Encourage native predators like dragonflies, spiders and small fish.
- Partner with your neighbors! Remember, mosquitoes don’t recognize fences or property lines.
Here are some tips to protect yourself when you’re outdoors:
- Wear long pants and long sleeves.
- Apply a CDC-approved repellent spray on any exposed skin.
- Treat clothes with an approved treatment to repel mosquitoes.
- If possible, avoid lakes, ponds, swamps, marshes and any other area with standing water during mosquito season.
You can also avoid mosquitoes by not being outside when they are. Since they generally hunt from dusk to a few hours after the sun goes down, remaining inside at those times can reduce their ability to interact with you. You can install screens around your deck and patio areas to keep the mosquitoes on the outside. Also, check your window screens to make sure they can’t get into the house.
If you choose to treat for mosquitoes, remember that the adults and immatures live in different environments. If treating for adults, target their resting areas and treat during the day when they are most inactive. For larvae, look for standing water sources or use larval traps.
Remember: When using any pesticide, read and follow all label directions. Options for treating include liquid sprays, granular “dunks” for water sources, traps and more. Often, you will need to use more than one method to effectively reduce mosquito populations in your yard.
Ask for Help with Mosquitos
Mosquito populations are never the same year to year, and they can increase or decrease. Temperature, rainfall and other variables can impact their populations. That means the number of cases of diseases are also variable. There are treatments you can perform to reduce adult and larval mosquitoes, but sometimes it’s best to call in a professional.
Looking for help with mosquito control? At Home Pros can match you with the right pest control professional for your pest control needs. Mosquito bites don’t just itch; they also pose the real threat of transmitting disease. So, don’t take any chances with your family’s health. Reach out to our team of experts to find the best local mosquito exterminators for you and your home.