Scientific Name: Culicidae (from the Latin culex, genitive culicis, meaning “midge” or “gnat”)
Lifespan: Two weeks (males) to two months (females)
Brief description: The word “mosquito” comes from the Spanish and Portuguese words for “little fly.” There are more than 3500 species of mosquito, and some 175 of them live in the United States. They are considered one of the most dangerous animals in the world, not because of the annoying, itchy rash that their bites can cause their victims, but because many species are vectors of deadly infectious disease.
What are Mosquitoes?
People have been cursing and swatting at mosquitoes since the beginning of time. Aristotle mentioned mosquitoes in his writing in 300 B.C., and Alexander the Great is thought to have died at the hand (or mouth) of a malaria-carrying mosquito. Chances are, these bugs are going to be pestering us for eons to come. But homeowners can take certain steps to prevent mosquitoes from taking over their property.
In the United States, Anopheles quadrimaculatus, Culex pipiens, and Aedes aegypti (Asian tiger mosquito) are three of the most common species of mosquito. All three bite. The Anopheles is the only one known to carry malaria, the Culex transmits encephalitis and West Nile virus, and the Aedes can carry encephalitis, dengue and yellow fever.
Only the female mosquito sucks blood. They aren’t hungry; they need the blood to develop and nourish their eggs.They bite their victims (usually horses, cattle, birds, or humans) using a needle-like, serrated mouthpart called a proboscis. They use the proboscis to pierce the skin and locate a capillary, then another tube to draw blood into their bodies. Their saliva contains an anticoagulant and, in most people, causes a mild allergic reaction, with swelling and itching of the skin.
Mosquitoes have four life stages: egg, larvae, pupae, and adult. During their first three stages of life, mosquitoes live in water. Then, eight to ten days after hatching from their eggs, the insects emerge from the water as adults and fly away.
Signs and Symptoms of Mosquitoes
If you hear a faint buzzing in your ear, or a loud “ouch!” from one of your backyard barbecue guests, you could have a mosquito problem. These insects are most active at dawn and dusk and on cloudy days. Signs of mosquito eggs and larvae are their presence in standing pools of water.
How to Prevent Mosquitoes
Mosquitoes need just a tiny amount of standing water to lay their eggs. Get rid of all the standing water in your yard, and you will go a long way in preventing these pests from multiplying in your vicinity. Check for dripping faucets, leaking air conditioner units and clogged gutters, tie tarps tightly, and turn over watering cans and buckets, wheelbarrows, bird baths, and baby pools when not in use.
Once you eliminate their breeding grounds, consider using repellents for your skin, clothing, outdoor gear, and yard to prevent the bugs from biting. A professional lawn care service can help develop a barrier treatment plan that protects family members (including pets) from the annoyance and danger of mosquitoes.
To protect yourself at the next outdoor party, light citronella candles and torches. These are effective at keeping mosquitoes at bay for the short term in small areas. Outdoor fans are also useful, because mosquitoes are notoriously poor fliers. And make sure that you have “sweet” friend with you. Mosquitoes tend to prey on victims who have Type O blood and who give off large quantities of carbon dioxide (larger people and pregnant women). Then, while others go off to play badminton, put your feet up; any fast movements or body heat will help mosquitoes find you more quickly.