Mosquitoes are small, flying insects known for their ability to bite and potentially transmit diseases. They belong to the family Culicidae and have a worldwide presence, with over 3500 species that thrive in various environments. Understanding mosquitoes is crucial for effective prevention and control, as they pose significant health risks.

Mosquito Life Cycle

Mosquitoes undergo a four-stage life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The life cycle begins when a female mosquito lays eggs on or near water. These eggs hatch into larvae, commonly known as "wigglers," which live in water and feed on organic matter. The larvae then transform into pupae, or "tumblers," which also reside in water. Finally, adult mosquitoes emerge from the pupal stage, ready to mate and continue the cycle.

Mosquito life cycle infographic from egg to adult

Mosquito Feeding

Only female mosquitoes bite humans and animals to obtain blood, which provides the necessary proteins for egg development. Males feed on nectar and plant juices. Female mosquitoes have specialized mouthparts called proboscises that allow them to pierce the skin and suck blood. When they bite, mosquitoes can transmit various pathogens, including viruses, bacteria, and parasites.

Female Aedes aegypti mosquito biting someones skin with their proboscis

Diseases Spread by Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are vectors for several serious diseases, including:

  • Malaria: Caused by Plasmodium parasites, transmitted by Anopheles mosquitoes.
  • Dengue Fever: Caused by dengue viruses, transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes.
  • Zika Virus: Transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, associated with birth defects.
  • West Nile Virus: Spread by Culex mosquitoes, can cause neurological illness.
  • Yellow Fever: Caused by yellow fever virus, transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes.

 Mosquito Attractants

Mosquitoes are attracted to their hosts by several factors, including body heat, carbon dioxide, and body odor. Different species of mosquitoes are active at different times of the day; some prefer to feed during dawn and dusk, while others are active throughout the night or even during the day. Understanding the behavior of local mosquito species can help in developing effective prevention strategies.

Infographic showing how humans attract mosquitoes. Credit: Chiswick Chap

Preventing Mosquito Bites

Preventing mosquito bites is essential for reducing the risk of disease transmission.

Personal protection measures include using insect repellents containing DEET, Picaridin (Saltidin), or natural oils such as citronella. Wearing long-sleeved shirts, long trousers, and socks can also minimize skin exposure. Sleeping under mosquito nets, especially in areas where mosquito-borne diseases are prevalent, adds an extra layer of protection at night.

Environmental management plays a critical role in mosquito control. Eliminating standing water sources, where mosquitoes lay their eggs, is one of the most effective strategies. Regularly emptying and cleaning containers that collect water, such as flower pots, bird baths, and gutters, can significantly reduce mosquito breeding sites. Introducing natural predators, like fish and dragonflies, into water bodies can help control mosquito larvae populations.

Public health measures include community-wide efforts to reduce mosquito populations and the spread of mosquito-borne diseases. These efforts may involve spraying insecticides, distributing bed nets, and conducting awareness campaigns to educate people about prevention methods. Governments and health organizations often monitor mosquito populations and disease outbreaks to implement timely interventions.

* View our top tips for staying bite free

Mosquitoes Conclusion

In summary, mosquitoes are more than just a nuisance; they are vectors of serious diseases that affect millions of people worldwide. Understanding their life cycle, behavior, and the diseases they transmit is crucial for effective prevention and control. By combining personal protection measures, environmental management, and public health initiatives, we can reduce the impact of mosquitoes on human health.