Mosquito Bytes

Published on February 19, 2013 by Amy

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Mosquito Bytes
Mosquito Bytes

Mosquitoes are insects belonging to the order Diptera, the True Flies. Like all True Flies, they have two wings, but unlike other flies, their wings have scales and their mouthparts (in female mosquitoes) form a long piercing-sucking proboscis. Males differ from females by having feathery antennae and mouthparts not suitable for piercing skin. Nectar is their principal food source.

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The Spanish called the mosquitoes, “musketas,” and the native Hispanic Americans called them “zancudos.” “Mosquito” is a Spanish or Portuguese word meaning “little fly” while “zancudos,” a Spanish word, means “long-legged.” The use of the word “mosquito” is apparently of North American origin and dates back to about 1583.

Mosquitoes can be an annoying, serious problem in man’s domain. They interfere with work and spoil hours of leisure time. Their attacks on farm animals can cause loss of weight and decreased milk production. Some mosquitoes are capable of transmitting diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, dengue, filariasus and encephalitis

The mosquito goes through four separate and distinct stages of its life cycle: Egg, Larva, Pupa, and Adult. Each of these stages can be easily recognized by its special appearance.

Egg : Eggs are laid one at a time and they float on the surface of the water. In the case of Culex and Culiseta species, the eggs are stuck together in rafts of 200 or more. Anopheles and Aedes species do not make egg rafts but lay their eggs separately. Culex, Culiseta, and Anopheles lay their eggs on water while Aedes lay their eggs on damp soil that will be flooded by water. Most eggs hatch into larvae within 48 hours. Water is a necessary part of their habitat.

Larva : The larva (larvae – plural) lives in the water and comes to the surface to breathe. Larvae shed (molt) their skins four times, growing larger after each molting. Most larvae have siphon tubes for breathing and hang from the water surface. Anopheles larvae do not have a siphon and lay parallel to the water surface to get a supply of oxygen through a breathing opening. The larvae feed on micro-organisms and organic matter in the water. On the fourth molt the larva changes into a pupa.

Pupa: The pupal stage is a resting, non-feeding stage. This is the time the mosquito turns into an adult. It takes about two days before the adult is fully developed. When development is complete, the pupal skin splits and the mosquito emerges as an adult.

Adult: The newly emerged adult rests on the surface of the water for a short time to allow itself to dry and all its body parts to harden. The wings have to spread out and dry properly before it can fly.

The egg, larva and pupa stages depend on temperature and species characteristics to determine how long they take for development. For instance, Culex tarsalis , a common California, USA mosquito, might go through its life cycle in 14 days at 70 F and take only 10 days at 80 F. Also, some species have naturally adapted to go through their entire life cycle in as little as four days or as long as one month.

Mosquitoes Need Water: All mosquitoes have four stages of development-egg, larva, pupa, and adult-and spend their larval and pupal stages in water. The females of some mosquito species deposit eggs on moist surfaces, such as mud or fallen leaves, that may be near water but dry. Later, rain or high tides reflood these surfaces and stimulate the eggs to hatch into larvae. The females of other species deposit their eggs directly on the surface of still water in such places as ditches, street catch basins, tire tracks, streams that are drying up, and fields or excavations that hold water for some time. This water is often stagnant and close to the home in discarded tires, ornamental pools, unused wading and swimming pools, tin cans, bird baths, plant saucers, and even gutters and flat roofs. The eggs deposited on such waters soon hatch into larvae. In the hot summer months, larvae grow rapidly, become pupae, and emerge one week later as flying adult mosquitoes. A few important spring species have only one generation per year. However, most species have many generations per year, and their rapid increase in numbers becomes a problem.

Only the Female Can Bite: When adult mosquitoes emerge from the aquatic stages, they mate, and the female seeks a blood meal to obtain the protein necessary for the development of her eggs. The females of a few species may produce a first batch of eggs without this first blood meal. After a blood meal is digested and the eggs are laid, the female mosquito again seeks a blood meal to produce a second batch of eggs. Depending on her stamina and the weather, she may repeat this process many times without mating again. The male mosquito does not take a blood meal, but may feed on plant nectar. He lives for only a short time after mating.

Winter Survival Is Important: Most mosquito species survive the winter, or overwinter, in the egg stage, awaiting the spring thaw, when waters warm and the eggs hatch. A few important species spend the winter as adult, mated females, resting in protected, cool locations, such as cellars, sewers, crawl spaces, and well pits. With warm spring days, these females seek a blood meal and begin the cycle again. Only a few species can overwinter as larvae.

Mosquitoes Can Transmit Disease: Mosquito-borne diseases, such as malaria and yellow fever, have plagued civilization for thousands of years. Organized mosquito control in the United States has greatly reduced the incidence of these diseases. However, there are still a few diseases that mosquitoes in New, Jersey can transmit, including Eastern Equine Encephalitis and St. Louis Encephalitis. The frequency and extent of these diseases depend on a complex series of factors.

Source: turtletrack

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