It is impossible to have any substantive discussion on mosquitoes without delving into their impact on humanity as a disease vector. Dengue fever, yellow fever, and, most especially, malaria, which has influenced human society for at least four millennia, are all carried by these tiny insects. Chinese medical texts dating from 2700 BC describe malaria and Hippocrates noted the same symptoms centuries later. It was understood early on that the disease was associated with biting insects and swampy areas, but it wasn’t until 1897 when a British officer in the Indian Medical Service named Ronald Ross proved the transmission. In modern times, along with vaccines, the attempted eradication of mosquitoes has been at the forefront of malaria control, but over half a million people still die from the disease every year.
Life Cycle of Mosquito
Scientific & Common Names
Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum – Anthropoda
Class - Insecta
Order - Diptera
Suborder - Nematocera
Infraorder - Culicomorpha
Family - Culicoidae
Common Names – mosquito, larvae can be called wrigglers
Mosquitoes are a type of fly and over 3500 species have been identified worldwide. Male mosquitoes only live about a week, with females having a lifespan about four times as long, but still only four to five weeks. They can be found in areas around the globe, providing there is enough water for breeding. Every continent with the exception of Antarctica has large populations and even areas in the Arctic are infested for short periods of the year. The largest mosquitoes only reach slightly over a half inch and weigh a miniscule 2½ milligrams.
Mosquito’s lives are separated into four sections: eggs, larvae, pupa, and adult. Males swarm at night and females enter the swarm to mate. Once mated, the females lay a few hundred eggs at a time in different types of water, depending on the species - stagnant, swampy areas, temporary puddles, brackish or salty marshes, swimming pools, or tiny droplets stored in plants are suitable areas for the eggs to be left to mature. The hatched larvae live entirely in the water and stay close to the surface to breathe. They feed on algae and microbes until they develop into pupae. They remain at the pupae stage for only a few days and they do not feed, although they still stay close to the surface to breathe. At the end of the pupae stage, they emerge as adults. Depending on the environment and species, the transformation from egg to adult takes between one and six weeks.
Both males and females feed on nectar, but females of several species have adapted to take in extra protein by feeding on the blood of vertebrate animals. Any vertebrate from deer, to birds, to venomous snakes can be a target, but invertebrates are rarely, if ever, preyed upon. The primary predators for mosquitoes are small fish and some insects while mammals and birds are not considered much of a threat. In warmer climates, they are active year-round while they hibernate in other areas. Many species become more active at dusk and some are capable of traveling over seven miles in a single night.
All insects and arthropods evolved from Onychophoran, a worm-like segmented creature whose direct descendants still exist today. Primitive mosquitoes have been found in 100 million year old amber, and what could be considered modern mosquitoes have been found in amber from 79 million years ago. Nearly every human settlement throughout recorded history has dealt with mosquitoes and the diseases they carry. Towns and even cities have been brought low by this tiny nuisance.
There is no known species of mosquito that is considered threatened. All current population research into the insect is concerning control and attempted eradication.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Mosquito: The Story of Man’s Deadliest Foe by Andrew Spielman
Mosquitoes of the Southeastern United States by Dr. Nathan D. Burkett-Cadena Ph.D.
Mosquitoes of Medical Importance by Richard H. Foote and David R. Cook