At Zone Repellents, we strive for excellence in all things, especially our knowledge about the animals we help you keep away from your family and pets. In this blog, we’ll be discussing mosquitos! Most of us are able to prevent and treat those microscopic attackers, but we can all do better when armed with more knowledge.. And Picardin insect repellent from Zone Repellents. The more we know about our mosquitoes, the better we can protect our yards and stay safe from the deadly diseases that they can carry.
Mosquitoes, the insects that are universally hated the world over. These pesky, disease-carrying pests make a living by sucking the blood out of just about anything that moves, including us. But if you take a moment away from your annoyance with their bites, mosquitoes are actually pretty interesting creatures to learn about!
1. Mosquito is Spanish for “little fly.”
The word reportedly originated in the early 16th century. In Africa, New Zealand and Australia, mosquitoes are often called “Mozzies”.
2. Mosquitoes are the deadliest animals on Earth.
Take that, shark week! More deaths are associated with mosquitoes than any other animal on the planet. Mosquitoes can carry any number of deadly diseases, including malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, and encephalitis. Mosquitoes can also carry heartworms, which can be lethal to dogs.
Read all about mosquito-transmitted diseases and statistics in the Zone Repellents white paper, “Diseases - Mosquitoes and Ticks Can Put You at Dis-ease”.
3. Mosquitoes do not bite, they suck.
Mosquitos actually penetrate the skin before sucking. They use a long, pointed mouthpart called a proboscis. They use the serrated proboscis to pierce the skin and locate a capillary, then draw blood through one of two tubes.
4. Only female mosquitoes bite humans and animals; males feed on flower nectar.
Mosquitoes mean nothing personal when they take your blood. Female mosquitoes need the protein from blood for their eggs, and must take blood meals in order to reproduce. Since males don't bear the burden of producing young, they'll avoid you completely and head for the flowers, instead. And when not trying to produce eggs, females are happy to stick to nectar, too.
5. Mosquitoes are efficient sucking machines.
Once a feeding mosquito is full, a chemical signal shuts down its intake. When scientists have disabled that chemical signal in lab studies, the mosquitoes have sucked until they explode. The female’s saliva contains an anticoagulant that lets her more easily suck up her meal, as well as a mild painkiller to keep you unaware. The saliva induces an allergic response from her victim’s immune system; that’s why your skin gets an itchy bump.
6. Mosquitoes are vampire wannabes.
It would take 1,200,000 mosquitoes, each sucking once, to completely drain the average human of blood, which seems unlikely. But then again, in the Arctic, Canadian researchers who bared their arms, legs, and torsos reported as many as 9,000 bites per minute from swarming, newly hatched mosquitoes. At that rate, an individual could lose half their blood within two hours.
7. Mosquitoes in colder climates are more aggressive.
Mosquitoes hibernate. They are cold-blooded and prefer temperatures over 80 degrees Fahrenheit. At temperatures less than 50 degrees, they shut down for the winter. When they arise from their slumber, they are hungry, ready to breed, and will hunt for prey like there is no tomorrow.
8. Some mosquitoes avoid biting humans altogether.
There are approximately 3,500 species of mosquitoes, but not all mosquito species feed on people. Only around 200 species feed on human blood. Some mosquitoes prefer feeding on other animals, and are no bother to us at all. Culiseta melanura, for example, bite birds almost exclusively and rarely bite humans. Another mosquito species, Uranotaenia sapphirina, is known to feed on reptiles and amphibians.
In 1998, researchers found a new mosquito species in the London Underground, descended from ancestors that flew in when the tunnels were dug 100 years ago. Once bird-feeders, they now feast on a menu of rats, mice, and people. They rarely interbreed with their aboveground colleagues. Their DNA actually varies from one subway line to another.
9. Mosquitoes are slow fliers.
Mosquitoes average a flight speed of 1 to 1.5 miles per hour. That might sound fast, but they're not setting any insect speed records. If a race were held between all the flying insects, nearly every other contestant would beat the slow mosquito. Butterflies, locusts, and honey bees would all finish well ahead of the skeeter.
10. A mosquito's wings beat 300-600 times per second.
This would explain that irritating buzzing sound you hear just before a mosquito lands on you and sucks.
11. Before mating, mosquitos synchronize their wing beats to perform a lover's duet.
Scientists once thought that only male mosquitoes could hear the wing beats of their potential mates, but recent research on Aedes aegypti mosquitoes proved that females listen for lovers, too. When the male and female meet, their buzzing synchronizes to the same speed. Females take several times longer to synchronize.
It’s a weird romance. According to a University of Bristol study, male mosquito “ears” are packed with about as many sensory cells as human ears, helping amorous mosquito males identify and pursue passing females. Mosquitoes can mate in midair, often in as little as 15 seconds from approach to fare-thee-well. There are no known instances of prior cocktails and dinner.
12. Salt marsh mosquitoes may live as far as 100 miles from where they hatched.
Most mosquitoes emerge from their watery breeding ground and stay pretty close to home. But some, like the salt marsh mosquitoes, will fly lengthy distances to find a suitable place to live, with all the nectar and blood they could want to drink.
13. All mosquitoes require water to breed—but not much water.
Just a few inches of water is all it takes for a female to deposit her eggs. Tiny mosquito larvae develop quickly in bird baths, roof gutters, and old tires dumped in vacant lots. Some species can breed in puddles left after a rainstorm. If you want to keep mosquitoes under control around your home, you need to be vigilant about dumping any standing water every few days. Females even lay their eggs in damp soil that’s prone to flooding.
14. Mosquitoes have large families, but short lifetimes.
Female mosquitoes can lay up to 300 eggs at a time. Usually, the eggs are deposited in clusters on the surface of stagnant water. The female will lay eggs up to three times before they die, which means they can produce nearly a thousand offspring in a lifetime! A mosquito can live for five to six months, though few probably make it that long, given our tendency to slap them silly when they land on us. But in the right circumstances, an adult mosquito has a longer life expectancy than most bugs.
15. Mosquitoes can detect carbon dioxide from 75 feet away.
Carbon dioxide, which humans and other animals produce, is the key signal to mosquitoes that a potential blood meal is near. They've developed a keen sensitivity to CO2 in the air. Once a female senses CO2 in the vicinity, she flies back and forth through the CO2 plume until she locates her victim. In addition to CO2, they are also attracted to the lactic acid and octanol in human breath and sweat.
16. Mosquitoes are heat seeking missiles that like beer.
As our bodies emit heat and humidity, the mosquito hones in on the scent. They have also been known to have a preference for beer drinkers. So, if you are working outside on a hot day, breathing hard, sweating and drinking a cold beer, you will be highly desirable to the female species…of mosquitoes.
17. High noon is too hot for mosquitoes.
The best time to avoid mosquitoes is in the afternoon, when temperatures are hottest and the insects rest in cooler spots.
18. We only have a few weapons against mosquitoes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists only four chemicals as being effective for repelling mosquitoes: DEET, Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (or its synthetic version, called PMD) and IR3535. See more detailed information in our Zone Repellents white paper, “Repellent Chemistry and Man's Fight against the Bite”. The best mosquito repellent, however, is the Picaridin-based Zone Insect Repellent.
Bacteria can be used to kill mosquito larvae. Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) is a commercially-produced bacteria, sold in pellet and powder form, that can be laced into water where larvae live. It produces proteins that turn into toxins after the larvae eat it.
Bats do not eat mosquitoes. At least, not very many of them. Mosquitoes make up less than one percent of a bat's diet. And purple martins, a bird popularly believed to be a mosquito predator, eat very few mosquitoes. They prefer dragonflies and other insects.
The two main mosquito predators are fish and dragonflies. Gambusia, or mosquitofish, feed on mosquito larvae and are used all over the world to help control mosquito populations. Dragonfly larvae, called nymphs, eat mosquito larvae, and adult dragonflies prey on adult mosquitoes. Some towns in Maine release dragonflies every summer as a natural form of mosquito control.
19. We don’t need to kill all mosquitoes, just control them.
If we eliminate mosquitoes entirely, there would be negative effects on the ecosystem. The loss of an insect that is eaten by spiders, salamanders, frogs, fish, and other insects would not be good.
20. Mosquito-transmitted diseases are deadly.
Malaria infects around 250 million people each year worldwide and kills about one million, mostly children in Africa. Millions of people alive today will die of a mosquito-transmitted disease. Other top killers include dengue, yellow fever, and West Nile virus.
Read all about mosquito-transmitted diseases and statistics in the Zone Repellents white paper, “Diseases - Mosquitoes and Ticks Can Put You at Dis-ease”.
21. There are statues of mosquitoes.
The world’s largest statue of a mosquito is a roadside attraction in Komarno, Manitoba, the mosquito capital of Canada. (“Komarno” is Ukrainian for “mosquito.” What’s up with that?) Sculpted in 1984, it is made of steel and has a wingspan of 15 feet. It’s also a weathervane, swiveling in the wind. It is hard to get upset about that.
22. Honey, we shrunk the mosquitoes, but not their appetites!
Millions of years ago, mosquitoes were three times as large as they are today. Eyes occupy most of the surface of a mosquito’s head. Not eyes into which one might wish lovingly to peer, these compound-lensed organs deliver infrared images of heat patterns emanating from a body, like the alien in Predator.
Mosquitoes have six legs. They also have a head, thorax and abdomen. On the head are two large compound eyes, two ocelli (simple eyes), two antennae and a proboscis. Two large, scaled wings sprout from their thorax.
23. What’s in a name?
Central America’s so-called Mosquito Coast (a thin strip of land along the Caribbean in Honduras and Nicaragua) is not named for the insect, but after a mispronunciation of the name of the indigenous Miskito Indians.
24. Mosquitoes are aplenty in the U.S.
There are about 174 species of mosquitoes in the United States, according to Joseph M. Conlon, a retired Navy entomologist who is a technical adviser to the nonprofit American Mosquito Control Association. Texas has the most species, with about 85, and West Virginia has the least, with roughly 24. New York City alone has more than 50 species of mosquitoes.
25. Mosquitoes sucked the blood of dinosaurs.
Mosquitoes have been around since the Jurassic period. That makes them about 210 million years old. They've been mentioned throughout history, including in the works of Aristotle around 300 B.C., and in writings by Sidonius Apollinaris in 467 B.C.
That rounds out the facts and factoids about mosquitoes. Although it is a bad idea to completely eradicate these little creatures (and impossible), they are still a huge nuisance and deadly enemy to the human race. Please read the Zone Repellents whitepaper, “Mosquito Prevention - What Your Mother Never Told You” for detailed information about what we can do to live safely with these insects.
Appendix: Mosquito Species Identification
Aedes Aegypti: Yellow Fever Mosquito
They primarily bite humans, rather than other animals, and they like to feed indoors. The combination makes them particularly dangerous when it comes to spreading disease.
They are also fidgety. They will eat several partial meals on multiple victims, called sip-feeding. It is one way they pass pathogens.
The females draw blood to nourish their eggs. They prefer to lay them in clean water, including birdbaths, clogged gutters, pet bowls, bottle caps, and even shower drains. The eggs stick to the sides of containers and can survive drying out.
The species rarely flies more than a block in its lifetime. It is mostly found in the South and the Southwest. But it has been found in New Jersey, southern Connecticut and New York City, though not necessarily in large populations.
Aedes Albopictus: Asian Tiger Mosquito
The Asian tiger mosquito is known for spreading the dengue and chikungunya viruses. It has also tested positive for Zika, West Nile, Eastern equine encephalitis and Japanese encephalitis.
Culex Pipiens: Northern House Mosquito
A nondescript brownish insect, with a rounded abdomen.
This is usually the one you will hear buzzing in your ear at night. It will overwinter in your attic if it can. This species feeds on humans, other mammals and many types of birds, which are the main carriers of West Nile virus. The mosquitoes typically lay their eggs in dirty water, ditches and shallow ruts. Dozens of species have been known to carry West Nile, but the Culex pipiens is the primary culprit.
Distinguishable by its rounded abdomen and light-colored band around its proboscis.
They breed in “enormous numbers,” Mr. Conlon said, typically in agricultural runoff and in ditches.In Western states, this species is the primary carrier in rural areas for West Nile virus. The mosquitoes have also been associated with Western equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis and California encephalitis. The species is abundant in California, Utah and the western half of North America.
Anopheles Quadrimaculatus: Common Malaria Mosquito
These dark brown insects are recognizable by long palpi, or tasting organs, which are almost the same length as its proboscis, or mouthparts. It rests on surfaces diagonally, with its head down and abdomen jutting into the air. Females feed on humans and other mammals, usually in the evening. They prefer to lay eggs in freshwater ponds, streams and lakes.
Only the Anopheles genus carries malaria. In Africa, Anopheles gambiae is the primary offender. In the Eastern United States, it is the Anopheles quadrimaculatus.
These straw-color insects are noted for the way their abdomens lift into the air when they sit. Their wings are dotted with dark spots. The female’s clear belly will turn red and swell when full of blood. Females usually come out at dusk, and fly farther than other species. They will travel from rural areas into homes or barnyards to feed. They prefer to lay eggs in leafy, sunlit pools and drains, rice fields and ponds.
They were once the primary carriers of malaria in agricultural areas on the West Coast, especially California. While malaria is gone, health officials worry that local mosquitoes could pick it up again from an infected human and set off an outbreak.