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Nature

Small But Blood Thirsty

Differences and facts on mosquitoes and why they are so dangerous

mosquito drinking
Tiger Mosquito having a drink. Photo by WikiImages from Pixabay.

Three insects that everyone knows…. flies, ants and mosquitoes but lets focus on the latter.

Mosquitoes are one of the deadliest creatures on the planet by nature of the diseases they carry such as malaria,encephalitis, yellow fever, dengue, zika virus, west nile virus and the list goes on…..

Nearly 700 million people contract mosquito borne illnesses each year resulting in around 1 million deaths.

So, why do they spread so much disease?

The answer lies in their appetite, they drink blood and injest microbes then pass them directly into someone else’s blood, bypassing our natural defences such as skin, mucus, stomach acid etc.

In the mosquito world its the ladies causing the agitation as they are the ones that do the biting.

what happens is the males gather usually around dusk in large warms and the female flies into the swarm to mate. After this her next mission is to get a meal of blood and then she gets to rest while the blood is digested and the eggs form. This will typically take about 2 days but is dependent on the temperature. She then lays the eggs.

All would probably be okay if it stopped there but it doesn’t. Her next move is to find another host and the cycle resumes until she dies which is between a week and two weeks. How does she find her new host – mosquitoes love carbon dioxide and we breathe it out all the time!

Both male and female mosquitoes eat nectar, plant juice and aphid honeydew but the female has the mouthpiece adaptation for piercing animal skins.

A male mosquito can expect to live for about 10 days.

Mosquito on plant
Mosquito on plant. Photo by Егор Камелев from Pixabay.

Male versus female mosquitoes – Males have more flagella or hairs on their antennae which improves his hearing, especially when trying to find a mate. It is only the female mosquito that makes the annoying buzzing sound.

So what happens after the female has done her egg laying bit?

Here’s an interesting bit, the eggs don’t hatch if the conditions are not right but their development i delayed until things are better. Be it cold or drought the eggs hatch when its warm and when there is enough water.

Depending on the species, the female either lays her eggs in stagnant water, on plants or near the water edge. A clutch of eggs can be anything between 100 and 200 eggs. The female only mates once in her life and then continue to develop and lay eggs, every 3 days or so. On average they would lay 3 batches before dying.

Some mosquitoes lay their eggs in pitcher plants and the larvae feed on insects that drown in the water in the plant.

As previously mentioned subject to conditions prevailing – the eggs hatch in anything from as little as 5 days to a few months.

Mosquito larva live in the water and breathe through spiracles located in the eighth abdominal segment. they therefore have to return to the surface frequently.

The larvae eat micro organisms in the water and molt 4 times in this stage before moving into the pupa stage.

The Pupa phase involves a transformation into a comma shaped organism that can still swim and spends most of its time at the water surface. Once again, subject to conditions, the pupa will open and the mosquito emerge within about 5 days as a pupa.

Mosquito bite
Mosquito bite! Photo by FRANCO PATRIZIA from Pixabay.

So what eats mosquitoes?

Other insects, spiders, birds, fish, frogs, tadpoles,bats, dragonflies, damselflies and then lastly, get this one…. predacious mosquitoes!

Some mosquitoes eat other mosquitoes at the larva stage. The elephant mosquito or mosquito eater is a relatively colorful mosquito and consumes its cousins while a larva but has no need to drink blood in its adult phase. The reason being that it already carries the egg laying nutrition that it needs.

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