10 Fascinating Facts About Mosquitoes
Interesting Behaviors and Traits of Mosquitoes
Ah, mosquitoes, the insects that are universally hated the world over. These pesky, disease-carrying pests make a living by sucking the blood out of just about anything that moves, including us. But take a moment to look at things from the mosquito's perspective – it's a pretty interesting life.
- Mosquitoes are the deadliest animals on Earth.
That's right; more deaths are associated with mosquitoes than any other animal on the planet. Mosquitoes may carry any number of deadly diseases, including malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, and encephalitis. Mosquitoes also carry heartworm, which can be lethal to your dog.
- Only female mosquitoes bite humans and animals; males feed on flower nectar.
Mosquitoes mean nothing personal when they take your blood. Female mosquitoes need protein for their eggs, and must take a blood meal in order to reproduce. Since males don't bear the burden of producing young, they'll avoid you completely and head for the flowers instead. And when not trying to produce eggs, females are happy to stick to nectar, too.
- Some mosquitoes don't bite humans, preferring other hosts like amphibians or birds.
Not all mosquito species feed on people. Some mosquitoes specialize on other animals, and are no bother to us at all. Culiseta melanura, for example, bites birds almost exclusively, and rarely bites humans. Another mosquito species, Uranotaenia sapphirina, is known to feed on reptiles and amphibians.
- Mosquitoes fly at speeds between 1 and 1.5 miles per hour.
That might sound fast, but in the insect world, mosquitoes are actually rather slow. If a race were held between all the flying insects, nearly every other contestant would beat the pokey mosquito. Butterflies, locusts, and honey bees would all finish well ahead of the skeeter.
- A mosquito's wings beat 300-600 times per second.
This would explain that irritating buzzing sound you hear just before a mosquito lands on you and bites.
- Mosquito mates synchronize their wing beats to perform a lover's duet.
Scientists once thought that only male mosquitoes could hear the wing beats of their potential mates, but recent research on Aedes aegypti mosquitoes proved females listen for lovers, too. When the male and female finally meet, their buzzing synchronizes to the same speed.
- Salt marsh mosquitoes may travel up to 100 miles from their larval breeding habitat.
Most mosquitoes emerge from their watery breeding ground and stay pretty close to home. But some, like the salt marsh mosquitoes, will fly lengthy distances to find a suitable place to live, with all the nectar and blood they could want to drink.
- All mosquitoes require water to breed. Some species can breed in puddles left after a rainstorm.
Just a few inches of water is all it takes for a female to deposit her eggs. Tiny mosquito larva develops quickly in bird baths, roof gutters, and old tires dumped in vacant lots. If you want to keep mosquitoes under control around your home, you need to be vigilant about dumping any standing water every few days.
- An adult mosquito may live 5-6 months.
Few probably make it that long, given our tendency to slap them silly when they land on us. But in the right circumstances, an adult mosquito has quite a long life expectancy, as bugs go.
- Mosquitoes can detect carbon dioxide from 75 feet away.
Carbon dioxide, which humans and other animals produce, is the key signal to mosquitoes that a potential blood meal is near. They've developed a keen sensitivity to CO2 in the air. Once a female senses CO2 in the vicinity, she flies back and forth through the CO2 plume until she locates her victim.
By Debbie Hadley