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MOSQUITO

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Culicidae

NUMBER OF SPECIES/DISTRIBUTION
The culicidae family is made up of 3,065 species of mosquitoes that are found throughout the world.
  • There are only 166 species in North America. Culicidae is one of the smaller families within the order diptera (fly).
DIET/FEEDING
For the most part, mosquito larvae can be classified into two different groups. The first group is classified as collector/filterers, while the second can be classified as collector/gatherers.
  • The collector/filterers feed by collecting food, such as algae, protozoan's, and organic debris, that is suspended in the water that passes them.
Mosquito

 

  • Collector/gatherers feed on decomposing organic material, such as bacteria and feces, which has been deposited by animals or water currents into certain areas.
  • The larvae of a few species are predaceous, sometimes eating other mosquito larvae.
  • As adults, male and female mosquitoes feed on nectar and plant juices.
  • Adult females need to feed on the blood of amphibians, birds, reptiles, and mammals, including humans, because a blood meal is usually required for the healthy development of eggs.
HABITAT
Mosquito larvae can be found in all places where water is present; these can be either natural or man-made.
  • Examples include lakes, swamps, streams, temporary rain filled depressions, ponds, irrigation drains, dams, wheel ruts, and backyard fixtures such as bird baths and septic tanks.
  • Larvae can tolerate water that contains organic pollutants; this is why they can be found in such varying habitats.
  • Within these diverse habitats, the larvae are usually found among vegetation in standing water.
  • Adult females are able to determine the chemical and biological quality of the water body; this allows her to best decide where to deposit her eggs.
LIFE CYCLE

Mosquitoes undergo complete metamorphosis, which involves passing through 4 complete life stages. These are the egg larval, pupal, and adult stages.

Eggs
  • The female adult mosquito lays her eggs on the surface of standing water or on the ground near water that will likely be flooded.
  • Eggs usually take two to four days to mature, depending on the weather.
  • Maturation could take up to ten days at colder temperatures.
  • Eggs deposited during winter will hatch the following spring.
Larvae
  • The larval stage can last anywhere from one week to over a month, depending on the species and temperature.
  • Most larvae go through 4 stages of development, called 'instars', increasing in size with each stage.
Pupae
  • The pupal stage generally lasts one week.
  • Although the pupa grows, it does not feed.
  • The male mosquito pupae tend to develop more quickly than female pupae.
Adults
  • Adults emerge from their pupal skin at the water's surface.
  • After emergence, the new adult must rest for approximately one hour on nearby vegetation, the water's surface, or a stream bank, before its wings are hard and strong enough to fly.
  • Female adult mosquitoes will seek out a sugar-meal, such as plant nectar, as soon as her wings are hard enough for flight.
  • This meal is required in order for her to gain energy.
  • Male and females mate soon after becoming adults.
  • Once she has mated, the female will consume a blood-meal in order to obtain all the nutrients needed for proper egg development.
  • Male adults live for only two weeks after becoming adults, whereas females can live up to three months.
  • Interestingly, less than ten percent of adult mosquitoes survive for over ten days due to predators.
  • A mosquito can mature from egg to adult in two to three weeks, depending on the type of species and on various environmental conditions.
  • In most climates, mosquitoes have only one generation per year (making them 'univoltine'). If optimal food, temperature, and other environmental conditions are present, however, then many generations can be born in one year (making them 'mulitvoltine').
INTERESTING FACTS
  • The scientific name culicidae comes from the Latin words'culex' and 'culicis', which mean 'gnat'.
  • Even though there often are larger numbers of mosquitoes, there are actually a very small number of different species.
  • Only one mosquito species overwinters as an adult. It is a Canadian species, and can 'hibernate' frozen solid in ice during the winter, continuing its life cycle in the spring.
  • Female adult mosquitoes looking for a blood meal tend to be attracted to carbon dioxide, which all mammals breathe out.
  • Most mosquito larvae breathe oxygen from above the water's surface by special 'abdominal siphons', which function very similarly to snorkels. When they are not feeding, most species hang from the water surface.
  • Larvae and pupae are both active swimmers and can dive to the bottom of the water. They tend to do this when the surface water is disturbed.
  • Females adult mosquitoes only need to mate once; the sperm pack received from the male during mating is sufficient to fertilize many batches of eggs.

Sources
Murray Darling Freshwater Research Centre (2006). Culicidae. Available here.
Iowa State University Entomology (2010). Family Culicidae - Mosquitoes. Available here.
Soil & Water Conservation Society of Metro Halifax (2004). Family Culicidae. Available here.
Univerisity of Minnesota; Guide to Aquatic Invertebrates of the Upper Midwest (2004). Diptera. Available here

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