Mosquito Facts

side image of mosquito

Useful Facts About Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes might not win any awards for most popular pest anytime soon, but they might win for most fascinating. Here are the some interesting facts about these pests, specifically the one associated with carrying the Zika virus.

Question: What Are They Called?
Answer: The Aedes aegypti (ah-A-days eye-GYP-tee), also known as the yellow fever mosquito, is the scientific name for the pest that carries the Zika virus.

Question: What Attracts Them?
Answer: Carbon dioxide gives insects the signal that blood is nearby, and since we exhale CO2, we make it easy for these pests to find us. Learn more about what attracts mosquitoes.

Question: How Many Legs Does A Mosquito Have?
Answer: Mosquitoes have six legs.

Question: Do Mosquitoes Have Brains?
Answer: Although they are quite small, mosquitoes do have brains. This organ is simple compared to a human brain but is enough to help mosquitoes see, move, taste, and detect scents or heat.

Question: Do Mosquitoes Poop?
Answer: Since they eat and digest blood or nectar, mosquitoes do poop. Their waste can either be in a semi-solid or liquid form.

Question: How Many Species Are There?
Answer: There are at least 2,700 known mosquito species in the world, with some reports as high as 3,000. There are only around 176 species that live in the U.S.

Bites & Diseases

Question: Are They Dangerous?
Answer: Mosquitoes are in fact the deadliest creatures on earth. They can carry dangerous diseases, and more deaths have been reported as a result of their bites than any other animal.

Question: Do All Mosquitoes Bite?
Answer: Only female mosquitoes bite humans and mammals to obtain protein found in blood that is needed in order to lay their eggs.

They don’t have teeth and “bite” with a proboscis. This is an important fact when scientists are working to determine how to minimize risk of disease transmission where there are large populations of Aedes aegypti.

Question: Do Mosquito Bites Hurt?
Answer: For the most part, bites from mosquitoes are just annoying and itchy. Some people may experience pain, especially if persistent scratching leads to a secondary infection. The “pain index” of mosquito bites varies by mosquito species, but most do not cause much pain when they feed.

Question: Can You Get Lyme Disease From Mosquitoes?
Answer: Lyme disease transfers to humans through the bites of ticks. While mosquitoes can’t spread Lyme disease, they put humans at risk for other illnesses.

Question: What Diseases Do They Spread?
Answer: These mosquitoes can spread the following diseases:

Behavior & Habits

Question: What Do They Eat?
Answer: Female mosquitoes feed on the blood of mammals and humans. Males prefer flower nectar as their primary food source. Learn more about what mosquitoes eat.

Question: Where Do They Live?
Answer: Mosquitoes live inside and outside—they don’t really care where they are as long as the conditions are comfortable. This includes any artificial or natural water container that is close to where humans live and most egg production sites are found close to households.

Question: Where Do Mosquitoes Hide?
Answer: When not searching for a meal, mosquitoes in residential areas rest in shaded areas such as:

  • Crowns of trees
  • Sewer and storm drains
  • Thick bushes

Question: Do Mosquitoes Hibernate?
Some take shelter in environments such as houses, garages, and caves to hibernate during cold weather. Not all mosquitoes hibernate during winter, instead the adults die before the cold, winter weather sets in.

Question: When Are They Active?
Answer: Prime biting hours are between dusk and dawn, but some species are active during the day. Learn more about when mosquitoes are most active.

Question: How Far Can They Fly?
Answer: Mosquitoes are short-distance flyers. They can only travel 100-200 feet at a time looking for water containers for breeding. They live their whole life within this short range. Reaching speeds of up to 1 to 1.5 miles per hour, they are one of the slowest flying insects around, despite their small body weight.

Question: When Is Mosquito Season?
Answer: The typical mosquito season runs from April through October. This can start as early as April, depending on which area of the country you are.

Breeding season is usually July through September, while peak West Nile Virus season is usually not until late August through early September or even October in some areas. Temperatures need to be around freezing before they will start to die off for the winter.

Question: How Long Have They Been Around?
Answer: Mosquitoes date back as far as 400 million years in the Triassic Period. That means they are more resilient than dinosaurs.

Reproduction

Question: Where Do They Reproduce?
Answer: Mosquitoes need standing water to breed, but it only takes a few millimeters—that’s about the size of a thimble. It only takes about a cup of water for them to breed. Just because your yard may be free of standing water, it does not mean your neighbor’s yard is too.

Even though you do not necessarily see standing water around your property, there are a variety of places where water can be stored where these pests can breed including:

  • Bird baths
  • Cars
  • Crevices in children’s toys and playground equipment
  • Flower pots
  • Full plastic garbage bags in the rain
  • Garden hoses
  • Gutters and downspouts
  • Landscape statues
  • Leaves and debris
  • Rain gauges
  • Old tires

Question: Where Do They Lay Their Eggs?
Answer: Mosquitoes typically lay their eggs in water, but eggs can survive in wet dirt. Most species prefer to lay eggs at the edge of water bodies against:

  • Foliage
  • Grass
  • Mulch

Question: How Long Is Their Life Cycle?
Answer: The mosquito life cycle from egg to adult can happen in as few as 7 to 8 days. If the water evaporates – or you pour it out – before the eggs develop, which usually takes about 7 to 10 days, the eggs will not develop completely into adults, and they will die. If water is not present but the ground is moist, those eggs can sit for months until there is enough water to float the eggs to develop and feed the larva.

Question: What Do Baby Mosquitoes Look Like?
Answer: Mosquito larvae look similar to small, worm-like shaped creatures that live in water. Also called wrigglers, they must come to the water surface for air and then sink back to the bottom where they feel protected. After molting, these baby mosquitoes enter the pupae stage, where they develop a hard case shaped like a comma and continue living in an aquatic environment.

Learn more about what mosquitoes look like.

Prevention

Question: How Do I Prevent Mosquitoes?
Answer: Preventing bites is the best way to prevent Zika and other outbreaks. Take the following precautions to protect yourself from mosquitoes:

  • Avoid Dusk & Dawn Hours: Stay indoors during dusk and dawn and an hour before and after dusk and dawn.
  • Clean Gutters & Downspouts: Make sure to clean gutters and downspouts regularly or cover with mesh to prevent leaves and debris from collecting and holding water.
  • Empty Water Containers: Empty any possible outdoor containers that can hold water. Check small crevices where water can collect in small spaces.
  • Replace Light Bulbs: Replace outdoor light bulbs with yellow bulbs that are less attractive to mosquitoes. Learn more about light and if it attracts mosquitoes.
  • Wear Repellent & Cover Skin: Wear EPA-approved insect repellent along with long sleeve shirts and long pants.

Control Methods

Question: Will A Ceiling Fan Keep Mosquitoes Away?
Answer: Moving air created by ceiling fans may deter mosquitoes for a short time but won’t get rid of the insects entirely. The pests will return to bite when the fan stops running. The absence of air movement makes it easier for them to fly and locate a food source.

Question: Will Bleach Kill Mosquitoes?
Answer: Bleach may control mosquito larvae in small water sources. But, bleach used in this manner can have adverse effects on residents and wildlife in the area. There are many safer and more environmentally-friendly options to treat these insects problems.

Question: Will Vinegar Keep Mosquitoes Away?
Answer: Many people try to use strong-smelling household items, like vinegar, as a natural mosquito repellent. A vinegar and water solution may have some limited effect, but it is not enough to reliably repel insects.

Question: Will Peppermint Oil Repel Mosquitoes?
Answer: Studies show that peppermint oil repels mosquitoes in certain doses. This essential oil can cause skin rashes and irritation. These pests will also return once the scent wears off. Repellents work best in combination with a professional pest treatment plan.

Question: Will Malathion Kill Mosquitoes?
Answer: When applied correctly, malathion works to get rid of mosquitoes and other insects in large areas. As with all pesticides, caution is advisable.

Question: Will Vicks Keep Mosquitoes Away?
Answer: Some believe that Vicks has ingredients that repel mosquitoes, but there is no research to back this idea. To effectively keep these pests away, use insect repellents that are approved and labeled for these insects and carefully follow the instructions.

Question: Is Mosquito Spraying Safe?
Answer: Mosquito spraying by local governments or pest professionals is generally not harmful since mosquito control products are applied in low doses and must be used according to the directions on the product’s label. Residents should not take it upon themselves to spray for these insects, as pesticides can be harmful to the user and the environment when applied incorrectly.

More Information:
Can Mosquitoes Bite Through Clothes?
Do Mosquitoes Bite Dogs?
Do Mosquitoes Have Blood?
Do Mosquitoes Sleep?
Do Plants Deter Mosquitoes?
How Do Mosquitoes See?
What Do Mosquitoes Sound Like?
What Do Mosquitoes Eat?
What Is a Mosquito?

Sources:
• 2017 Aedes aegypti Vector Control Summit hosted by the CDC and CDC Foundation
• https://www.cdc.gov/dengue/resources/30Jan2012/aegyptifactsheet.pdf
• http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/14-not-so-fun-facts-about-mosquitoes-36242998/
• http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/06/07/480653821/watch-mosquitoes-use-6-needles-to-suck-your-blood