In part one of this series, we looked at 8 little-known facts about mosquitoes. In part two we continue with some surprising information about these little pests. Bet you didn’t know them all!
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Where does the name mosquito come from?
If you’re going to discuss mosquitoes, one of the first things you should know is why they’re called mosquitoes in the first place. In fact, the name comes from the Portuguese word “mosca”, by way of Spanish. “Mosca” simply means “fly”, and with the addition of the suffix “ito”, mosquito means “little fly”. If you ask a scientist, mosquitoes are technically part of the fly family, so the name makes sense!
How much blood do mosquitoes really take?
When a mosquito bites–and only females bite–it takes a small “blood meal”. The blood isn’t actually food since the mosquito gets no nutrition from the blood. Instead, the proteins in the blood are necessary for the female to develop her eggs. When she bites, a mosquito can take in as much as three times her body weight in blood. That may seem like a lot, but mosquitoes are very light creatures. Mosquitoes take such a small blood meal that it would take well over a million bites to drain all of your blood. That would be one heck of an itch!
What do mosquitoes do with the blood they take?
There are a few things to know about a mosquito’s blood meal. First, only the females bite and take blood. That’s because the blood is actually not food for the mosquito. Mosquitoes, like many other flying bugs, mostly eat nectar and honeydew from plants to get the sugar they need to function. The blood a mosquito takes is not for herself, it is for her eggs. To produce eggs, a female mosquito needs protein, which isn’t present in nectar. So to get the protein she needs, a female mosquito will bite mammals, including humans, and take their blood.
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How many eggs does a mosquito lay?
A female mosquito will lay eggs up to three times in her life. When she does, she deposits a cluster of as many as 300 eggs into stagnant water or in a place that regularly floods. The larvae live in water for the first 10 days of their lives. They eat organic matter in the water and come to the surface to breathe oxygen.
What do mosquitoes do in the winter?
You’ve probably noticed that there is a mosquito “season” that lasts from spring to fall. As the weather warms, the mosquitoes start to swarm. If you hang out near standing water in the summer, you may be inundated with pesky biters. But if you stand in the same spot in December, you probably won’t see a single mosquito. So where do they go?
Mosquitoes, like all other insects, are cold-blooded. This means that their body temperature is entirely dependent on the temperature of the air around them. Ideally, mosquitoes like a temperature of 80 degrees or higher. As the temperature cools, mosquitoes slow down. And when the temperature drops below 50 degrees, they make like a polar bear and hibernate.
Depending on the species, an adult female mosquito may just shut down for the duration of the colder months. (Males of most species do not hibernate.) The hibernating females take shelter in holes in the ground or in trees and wait out the winter. In some species, the adult females aren’t the ones who hibernate. Instead, they lay eggs as winter is coming on and then die off. Their eggs go into a state of suspended animation while it’s cold outside and may even freeze. Once the weather warms up, the eggs come back to life and start to hatch, bringing about that first springtime swarm.
Mosquitoes bite, but they don’t have teeth.
How can a mosquito bite if it has no teeth? Well, a mosquito bite is not exactly a bite like a mammal or a human might take. Instead, it’s a bit of a venipuncture. A female mosquito finds her target mostly by smell. She looks for the smell of CO2 in the breath of an exhaling mammal. Other odors may also attract a mosquito, such as the smell of lactic acid or the scent created by the collection of bacteria on your skin.
Once a mosquito has found her target, she lands on her target and has to find a suitable blood vessel to puncture. Mosquitoes don’t bite very deeply, so they mostly look for capillaries near the surface of the skin. They find the best spot to bite by heat. Your blood is warm, so a mosquito just needs to find a nice warm spot to bite.
When the mosquito “bites” it doesn’t use teeth. Instead, it uses a long tubular mouthpiece called a proboscis. The proboscis has a serrated edge that the mosquito uses to pierce the skin. Through the proboscis, the mosquito injects a bit of its saliva as a coagulant. The saliva is what makes you itch. Through another part of the proboscis, she sucks up some blood before flying off and moving to her next victim.
Mosquitoes don’t just bite people.
With at least 3,500 described species of mosquito, there is a lot of variation in feeding patterns. Only a fraction of the total number of species bit humans. Other species take blood meals from a wide variety of creatures. Different species feed on almost every type of vertebrate. Many attack mammals, but other attack birds, reptiles, and even some fish.
If you don’t like mosquitoes, go to Iceland.
Mosquitoes are incredibly cosmopolitan. At least some species of mosquitoes are present in almost every region of the earth, with the exception of Antarctica and a few polar and subpolar islands. Iceland is one of those islands, with basically no mosquitoes. The lack of mosquitoes has to do with Iceland’s unpredictable weather. Mosquitoes thrive in some pretty cold climates, including the arctic tundra. The mosquitoes lay eggs or hibernate as winter is coming on and spend winter hibernating or in a state of suspended animation called diapause. When the weather warms up, they burst into action and the mosquito season begins. But that trick doesn’t work in Iceland.
In Iceland, the winter is often punctuated with brief thaws or warmer weather. The warmer weather would cause deposited mosquito eggs to hatch. But since the warm weather doesn’t last, the mosquitoes would be frozen over again before they get a chance to mature and reproduce. That makes Iceland inhospitable to mosquitoes, resulting in an entire island nation that is nearly completely free of mosquitoes.
If Iceland isn’t in your travel plans, just call Mr. Mister!
While an entire island free of mosquitoes sounds like a dream come true, many people would just as soon stay here in Atlanta. If you are determined to stay, and there are lots of reasons to stay, you can still live in a mosquito-free zone.
With Mr. Mister’s ClearZone Misting Service, your home or business can be mosquito free all season long. We’ll come out and spray about once every three weeks from spring to fall, and we guarantee you will be mosquito free for the duration.
Another option is to install an automated misting system. It works like an installed sprinkler system, hiding discretely among your bushes. At ideal times, usually dawn and dusk, the system releases a fine mist of mosquito insecticide, preventing mosquitoes from calling your property home.
If you are ready to live mosquito-free, contact Mr. Mister today for your no-obligation quote!