Everything About Mosquitoes
Everyone knows about the blood sucking vampire mosquito. Let’s focus on the less talked about vegetarian mosquito. Once mosquitoes hatch from their eggs, they are called larvae. These little ones hang out just below the water and feed on algae. Once they get enough food, they grow into their next phase called pupae. Pupae mosquitoes don’t eat anything. They still hang out just under the water, but all they do is grow. Once they are done growing, they go up to surface of the water and fly away as the adult mosquitoes we all know and hate. All adult mosquitoes feed on flower nectar, rotting fruit, or plant honey dew as their primary form of nourishment. Mosquitoes only need sugar to live.
Mosquitoes have a mouth mechanism called proboscis. It looks like a flexible, thin, long needle. The proboscis is really comprised of a number of different long needle like objects that split and search for blood once in the skin. Like antennae that split off from the main needle, whose main purpose is to locate blood and guide the main shaft to it. The male proboscis isn’t as complicated as the females since the male mosquito diet does not consist of any blood. The mosquito pumps saliva from its hypopharynx when biting you. This saliva has a numbing agent and an anticoagulant. This is why most people do not notice they are being bit. Once the mosquito saliva begins to wear off, it starts to itch and swell. This how we know we’ve been bitten.
Female Mosquitos Bite
Mr. mosquito lives completely off of a plant-based diet. Ms. mosquito only eats on you when she needs to produce eggs. Female mosquitoes have 2 stomachs. The front one is for storing and processing nectars and sugar. The rear stomach is for digesting blood. The rear stomach can hold enough blood for multiple broods of eggs. Female mosquitoes quit seeking animals to bite when the days start to get shorter. They focus on eating enough plant nectar to survive the winter while hibernating until spring. Most mosquitoes can produce about 10 eggs without your help. With the protein boost from your blood, they can produce about 100 eggs.
Don’t feel too special. Besides the tiger mosquito, most prefer other animals such as blue jays, robins, sparrows, ducks, geese, and most other birds. They also get blood from rats, dogs cats, raccoons, possums, and coyotes. They can draw blood from lizards, snakes, frogs, and even fish! If mosquitoes prefer other animals to humans, then what is with all of the mosquito bites? Humans are much bigger than most of the other blood sources for female mosquitoes. We move around a lot, sweat a lot, and breath out a lot of carbon dioxide. Female mosquitoes can detect the carbon dioxide everyone exhales at a range of 75 feet! Female mosquitoes are opportunist. Even if you aren’t their favorite meal, you are right there and easy to reach.
Plants Mosquitoes Hate
There are some plants which repel mosquitoes. These plants include cedars, citronella grass, lavender, basil, bee balm, garlic, rosemary, clove, catmint, catnip, clove, lemon thyme, lemon scented geraniums, lemongrass, lemon verbena, lemon eucalyptus, Mexican marigold, and plenty more. Plant these if you enjoy the smell. Mosquitoes may not like them, but they want the other plants near them.
Mosquitoes are drawn to locations that have standing water. It is where they can lay their eggs and get their population to grow. Those larvae need algae to eat when they hatch from eggs. If you have a lot of mosquito activity, check everywhere for standing water. Plants that hold water are a big breeding ground area for mosquitoes. Stagnant water in roof gutters, beneath wood decks, bird baths, and French drains are all areas that should be emptied or treated with mosquito control pellets.
Mosquitoes do not live very long. Male mosquitoes only live about a week. Female mosquitoes live longer than a month. A few varieties of mosquitoes hibernate throughout the entire winter. The female mosquitoes tend to eat more than male mosquitoes. Mosquitoes do act as pollinators. Pollen gets stuck in the eyes of mosquitoes as they drink the nectar of different plants. Mosquitoes are most active during dawn and dusk.
There are over 3,000 species of mosquitoes in the world. They live on every continent except Antarctica. Over 150 of these species are in the United States. About 100 of these species are present in Louisiana.
How to Avoid Mosquito Bites
Strangely, mosquitoes are like you more if you wear dark colors. Wear lighter colors to steer mosquitoes toward someone else near you. Mosquitoes track you by the carbon dioxide from your breath and by your body’s scent. Mosquito repellents that work contain the product DEET. This is a man-made scent that mimics the scents that mosquitoes dislike. Spray some of it on your ankles and wrist. The mosquito bites should lessen. Physical barriers work great. If you are going to be outside for a while, pants and long sleeve shirts put a layer between you and the mosquito bite. Unfortunately, it is hot outside and most people would rather risk mosquito bites than heat stroke. Screened in porches or window screen can keep the bugs out while letting the breeze pass through.
What Makes You More Attractive to Mosquitoes
Mosquitoes naturally avoid about 15% of people. If this is you, consider yourself lucky. For the rest of us, here are somethings that make you seem a little tastier to mosquitoes. Number one is alcohol. It could be due to your body being warmer or a strange link to fermented fruits mosquitoes eat. Whatever it is, if you are drinking some, expect to be on the business end of bug bites by as much as 30%. This gives getting buzzed a whole new meaning.
Next mosquito attractor is exercise. Nope, it is not your more attractive physique. Running around and lifting heavy things makes you breath more, sweat more, make lactic acid, and raises your temperature. You might as well advertise to mosquitoes that you are there for the biting.
Third thing is your blood type. If you are type O, you are out of luck. You are mosquitos’ favorite meal. You are the Michelin starred meal being compared to fast food. Your chance of being landed on is at least 80% higher than the other blood types. The silver lining is you know you are someone’s favorite!
Another mosquito attraction variable is pregnancy. Yes, you read that right. If you are pregnant, you are making heat and CO2 for two. You attract about twice as many mosquitoes as your less pregnant peers.
The last mosquito attractor we will discuss is being a fella. Yep, men attract more mosquitoes than women. This isn’t always true, but it normally is true. The reason is that men are regularly larger than women. Big people breath more and produce more heat. This signals the mosquitoes that it is time to eat. A lot of these you cannot change or won’t want too. Avoid mosquito-y areas when possible and wear mosquito repellant when you venture into their feeding areas.
Mosquitoes are the Deadliest Animal on Earth
Mosquitoes kill between about 1 million people each year by spreading diseases, malaria being the worst. Most of the deaths from malaria are young children under the age of five. For some perspective, snakes only kill 50 thousand people annually and crocodiles only eat a thousand. Malaria also infects another 200 million plus every year. Those statistics are only concerning malaria. Mosquitoes also spread other diseases including Chikungunya virus, West Nile virus, dengue fever, Rift Valley fever, encephalitis, Zika virus, and yellow fever. Mosquitoes are the third most populous animal on earth, behind ants and termites.
Mosquito Control Options
Mosquitoes are an annoyance to some and a death sentence to others. There are a variety of control methods implemented to drive down mosquito populations. In areas with large mosquito populations, government run mosquito control programs keep populations in check. These are typically the vehicles driving down the street at dusk which spew insecticide fog everywhere. Most people concur the risk of increased pesticide exposure outweighs the risk of mosquito spread diseases. There are current movements to limit this mosquito control option by those who do not fully understand the consequences of a boom in the mosquito population.
A similar method for mosquito control at your home is a backpack mosquito fogging program. This service is performed by a trained pest control technician using a motor-powered backpack. The fog contains a pyrethrin based product put out at low doses. The World Health Organization advises that the fog is not harmful to humans at the low concentrations used. These treatments control 96% of the mosquito population as an average in the treated area. Residual control last for about 21 days from the time of treatment. Professional pest control technicians should be the ones who treat your yard since fogging does deal with an insecticide. This method works great for outdoor events like ball games, wedding receptions, or parties.
Mosquito larvicide is a popular treatment method. This stops the mosquito life cycle by inhibiting larvae from growing into pupae. This is a product that used to treat areas that hold standing water that cannot be drained easily. Slow release pellets offer a good control method since they can be applied to drains, gutters, and low spots in your yard.
Mosquito misting systems act in a similar way as both the mosquito fogging program and the city run version. The difference being it is a permanent solution. This method pipes the control solution to nozzles throughout the area you want controlled from mosquitoes. It releases a fine mist for a few seconds a day, usually at dawn and dusk when mosquito activity is highest. This time is when beneficial insect activity is at its lowest, leading to a reduced risk to pollinators such as honey bees. There is not a lot of maintenance required, just clean and refill the system. We have found this to be the best control solution for mosquitoes in an area. These are a must for people with outdoor pools, summer grill masters, or families who spend most of their spare time in the yard.
Mosquito repellents with DEET work. If you are going to be in outdoors during mosquito season, use this type of mosquito repellent. If you are putting on sun screen, apply the mosquito repellent first. The mosquito repellents without DEET do more than wearing nothing, but not much more. The problem with this is you must remember to put it on every time you go out, and most people don’t.
Mosquito CO2 traps use carbon dioxide as a lure to bring mosquitoes in and then captures them in a net. While this does work, it doesn’t work enough to lower the mosquito population to a level where you are getting bit notably less. To make things worse, the extra CO2 it releases attracts more mosquitoes from your neighboring areas. You will end up with a larger mosquito population than when you started.
Citronella candles and torches work for a small area directly near the candle. You do not have enough candles to make it effective. Mosquitoes still smell you and your CO2 over the candle smell.
Bug zappers zap and kill bugs, just not mosquitoes. Don’t use these. They are a waste of your money. If you have one, stop wasting electricity and throw it away.
There is a story about eating spicy food or flexing that kills a mosquito when being bit. These are myths. Do not believe it.
I really enjoy researching and writing about pests. The more we know about bugs, the easier it becomes to control them.