Plymouth County Mosquito Control Project
There are approximately 2,700 species of mosquitoes world wide. Fortunately, only 50 species are found in Massachusetts. These 50 species are in 11 genera; the most common genera are Aedes, Culex, Culiseta, Coquillettidia and Ochlerotatus. Each genus may exhibit a slightly different lifecycle. But most insects including mosquitoes have the following stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.
Generally male mosquitoes emerge a few days before female mosquitoes. This gives the males a chance to mature before the females emerge. The males use their feathery antennae to hear the wings of the newly emerged females. Each mosquito species has a different sound to its wings so the males can find females of the same species. After they mate the female will look for a blood meal. Only the adult female mosquito blood feeds. She needs the energy from the blood to develop her eggs. She obtains energy for herself from nectar. The male mosquito feeds only on nectar. All mosquito species do not blood feed on people. Some exhibit host preferences for birds or reptiles and amphibians while others do not blood feed at all.
the female has obtained her blood meal she will find a quiet place to rest and
develop her eggs. It may take several days for this to happen. Once she is ready
to lay her eggs she will seek out an appropriate place. The site selected and
the way the eggs are laid largely depends on the species and genera. The site
may be the edges of a drying puddle or on the surface of the water in a
container. If she is in the genus Aedes she will most likely lay her eggs
singly on the edge of a drying puddle. If she is in the genus Culex or Culiseta
she will lay her eggs in a raft on the surface of the water. Each raft will
contain several hundred eggs. She will repeat this cycle of obtaining blood
meals and laying eggs until she dies. Most females die before they obtain their
second blood meal but some may blood feed two or three times. Those females that
obtain two or more blood meals are the ones that may transmit diseases since
they have come in contact with the blood of several different hosts.
The duration of the egg stage is largely dependent on the species and on environmental conditions. The egg stage could last from one day to years. Some mosquitoes over winter as an egg. These eggs usually must experience a cold season and a specific day length to trigger hatching. For many species the eggs will hatch in one to seven days. When the larvae are ready to hatch they use a small temporary tooth on their head to break open the egg along a suture. Because the larva's skeleton is located on the outside (exoskeleton), they must shed their exoskeleton in order to grow. All mosquito larvae shed their exoskeleton four times. These stages are called instars. The newly hatched larvae are called first instar larvae. First instar larvae are always very small and hard to see. The larvae typically float at the surface of the water. Here they can obtain food and breathe through their siphon. The siphon is located at the base of their abdomen and is similar to a snorkel. The larvae feed on bacteria and other organic matter in the water. Brushes that are located in front of their mouths collect the food.
After the larvae have completed their fourth instar they
become pupae. This is the stage in which they undergo metamorphosis to become an
adult mosquito. The process is similar to a caterpillar becoming a butterfly.
The pupae are very active and look like commas. The mosquito will be a
pupa for only a couple of days. Most insect pupae are inactive. However,
mosquito pupae are unique because they are very active and can move quickly
through the water. The pupae are transparent and the developing adult can be
seen inside the pupal case. For example, in this picture on the left the eye of the
developing adult can be seen. After one to three days the adult mosquito
is ready to emerge. The pupal skin splits along the top of the case. The adult
mosquito slowly and carefully works its way out of the pupal case. After
emerging it will float on the surface of the water and rest there until its body
and wings harden. Once the body has hardened the mosquito will be able to fly
its new life.
For more information on mosquito biology:
Mosquito Biology - New Jersey Mosquito Homepage
American Mosquito Control Association
Home Page Program Service Area Pesticides Disease Repellents Control around home Links