Contrary to their reputation, mosquitoes significantly impact the world's biological ecosystem. They act as pollinators and essential food sources for fish and birds. However, they are also the world's deadliest creatures, surpassing even the most feared predators by transmitting many diseases and affecting millions yearly.
One of the basic facts about mosquitoes is that only female mosquitoes bite humans and animals, gathering nutrients for egg production, while male mosquitoes sip on plant nectar. We hope these mosquito facts shed light on the complex sphere which these tiny creatures occupy.
It's not the lion or the tiger but the lowly mosquito that is the world's deadliest creature. Despite their size, these blood-sucking insects cause more illnesses and deaths yearly than other animals. Likewise, the real threat is not mosquito bites but the diseases that spread through them, like yellow fever4.
For example, the Anopheles mosquito carries malaria, affecting millions of people annually and resulting in 400,000 deaths every year. Sadly, a large majority of these fatalities are children under five.
On the other hand, Aedes aegypti mosquitoes bite and transmit dengue fever that kills tens of thousands of people every year. They are also the primary carriers of the Zika virus, which can harm unborn babies if the bug bites pregnant women.
Mosquitoes are common insects and share similar features with other insects. However, they have a unique feeding pattern. Unlike other insects, only female mosquitoes feed on blood since they need an iron- and protein-rich diet to develop their eggs. On the other hand, male mosquitoes prefer a vegetarian diet consisting of nectar and plant juices.
Female mosquitoes bite using a proboscis, a needle-like tool that punctures the host's skin to draw blood. Moreover, each blood meal results in hundreds of potential new lives. Additionally, it is important to note that blood type does not attract mosquitoes but rather the carbon dioxide people release when breathing.
Mosquitoes live in almost every corner of the world except for Antarctica since they cannot survive temperatures as low as -128.6 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, blood and plant nectar are scarce in Antarctica since there are hardly any plants or wildlife there. Furthermore, Antarctica has no pools of standing water where mosquitoes can lay their eggs.
Mosquitoes can detect their hosts from a distance of up to 100 feet using receptors on their sensory organs that constantly scan for the chemical trails of carbon dioxide and lactic acid from humans and animals1. These receptors are a mosquito's biological radar.
Humans and animals release carbon dioxide upon exhalation and produce lactic acid during physical activity. Similarly, mosquitoes rely on body heat, moisture, and visual contrasts to locate their prey. Studies have also shown that human scent attracts some mosquito species, including Aedes aegypti and Anopheles gambiae.
Mosquitoes also use their sense of smell to locate breeding sites and mates.
The presence of mosquitos increases during warm nights when people are enjoying a cold beer. According to an American Mosquito Control Association Journal study, beer attracts mosquitos2.
The science behind mosquitoes' attraction to beer is that human bodies produce more ethanol upon beer consumption, which is attractive to mosquitos.
Did you enjoy the first half of our mosquito facts? Uncover more exciting ones below!
A female mosquito can live for up to a month, relatively longer than similarly-sized insects. Their life cycle dictates their survival; they must mate, feed on hosts, and lay eggs.
However, several environmental factors, like temperature and humidity, affect mosquito lifespans. For example, high temperatures and humidity allow mosquitoes to thrive and thus live longer. Moreover, mosquitoes live longer when more hosts are in the area.
Individual female mosquitoes can lay up to 300 eggs at once, surpassing even rabbit reproduction3. How do these bugs do so? They assemble their eggs into clusters, or rafts, on the surface of standing or slow-moving water.
Any pool of water will do, such as vast marshlands or small puddles in a flowerpot. Within 24 to 48 hours, mosquito eggs hatch into larvae; the humidity and temperature of their environment influence their development into adult mosquitoes.
Mosquito larvae are called "wrigglers" living in various water sources like ponds, marshes, and buckets filled with rainwater. They eat organic matter and tiny organisms, recycling nutrients in their environment. Moreover, the larvae wriggle to the water's surface to breathe air, hence their nickname. During this stage, mosquito larvae face danger from predators like birds, frogs, fish, and other insects.
The larval stage usually lasts one to two weeks. As they grow, mosquitoes undergo four skin-shedding episodes known as 'instars.' After the final instar, the larvae transform into the pupal stage. Finally, the pupae transform into adult mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes aid in disease transmission by biting humans and animals. However, not all mosquitoes are harmful. Did you know that the Toxorhynchites amboinensis mosquito has formed an unexpected partnership with the cacao trees in the rainforests of Central and South America? How?
These mosquito species prefer the nectar from cacao flowers, unintentionally dispersing pollen and pollinating cacao trees. Due to their size and diet, these mosquitoes are excellent at pollinating tiny, intricate cacao flowers. Through their mutualistic relationship, mosquitoes can enjoy nectar, and the cacao trees can produce cocoa beans.
Mosquitoes are a nuisance and a vector of diseases. However, they are also significant contributors to the stability of diverse habitats. One of their essential tasks is pollination, which makes them vital partners to specific plant species.
Other animals, like birds, bats, frogs, and insects, eat mosquitoes and their larvae. Moreover, fish love to eat mosquito larvae, enhancing biodiversity. Additionally, mosquito larvae help break water debris, enabling energy and nutrients to flow throughout the ecosystem.
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McMeniman, C. J., Corfas, R. A., Matthews, B. J., Ritchie, S. A., & Vosshall, L. B. (2014). Multimodal integration of carbon dioxide and other sensory cues drives mosquito attraction to humans. Cell, 156(5), 1060-1071.
Lefèvre, T., Reifenrath, A., Lazzari, C. R., Geier, M., Geier, M., & Clements, A. (2010). Beer Consumption Increases Human Attractiveness to Malaria Mosquitoes. PLoS ONE, 5(3), e9546.
Clements, A. N. (2000). The Biology of Mosquitoes: Development, Nutrition and Reproduction. CABI Publishing.
Bhatt, S., Gething, P. W., Brady, O. J., Messina, J. P., Farlow, A. W., Moyes, C. L., Drake, J. M., Brownstein, J. S., Hoen, A. G., Sankoh, O., Myers, M. F., George, D. B., Jaenisch, T., Wint, G. R. W., Simmons, C. P., Scott, T. W., Farrar, J. J., & Hay, S. I. (2013). The global distribution and burden of dengue. Nature, 496(7446), 504–507.