APPEARANCE & IDENTIFICATION
Mosquito adults have a slender body, two wings, and the females have mouthparts that are designed to pierce the skin of a host and suck up blood. Male mosquitoes do not have piercing mouthparts and have antennae that are feathery in appearance. Adult mosquitoes vary in size, but are usually around ¼-inch long or slightly longer. Immature stages of mosquitoes, the larvae and pupae, do not have wings but are designed to move about in water. Within the United States, there are about 90 species of mosquitoes, and it takes a trained, experienced specialist to identify mosquitoes to their respective species.
While most mosquito are active at night, some species are active during the day, especially soon after dawn and before dusk. So, it is possible that mosquitoes could besiege a homeowner almost any time of the day or night. Mosquitoes are are often blown for long distances by the wind, so not all mosquitoes that are creating an annoyance are developing in a water source located nearby.
WHAT TIME OF YEAR ARE MOSQUITOES MOST ACTIVE?
Mosquitoes are generally most abundant during the warm weather months, but may be found year round in humid, hot areas such as the tropics and sub-tropics. Some species of mosquitoes may overwinter as adults in warm, protected areas of a building such as a basement or crawl space.
Mosquito larvae feed on aquatic debris and small organisms by filtering these food sources with their mouthparts before ingesting. Pupae move about in the water, but do not feed. Adult males and females feed on plant nectar and other sources of sugar and carbohydrates, but only the female feeds on blood. The preferred hosts of mosquitoes vary by species; however, in general they feed on mammals and birds.
Mosquito habitats include many, varied sources of water, and these sources are often somewhat different for various mosquito species. However, the more common mosquito habitats include flood waters, standing pools of water in woodland areas, storm drains, culverts and ditches containing water, edges of lakes and streams, tree cavities, tin cans, kid’s wading pools, down spouts, water filled gutters, tires, and empty flower pots.
HOW DO MOSQUITOES GET IN THE HOUSE OR A BUILDING?
The most likely way that mosquitoes get into a building is by flying inside through an open door or via a torn screen. Also, mosquitoes can be accidentally introduced inside by hitchhiking.
REPRODUCTION & LIFECYCLE
Mosquitoes have a complete life cycle with four stages – egg, larva, pupa and adult. Their life cycle begins with a blood-fed female mosquito laying eggs either in or close to the edge of a water source. After what is sometimes only a few days, the eggs hatch into larvae that are commonly called wigglers. After the larvae have gone through their necessary larval stages, they develop into the pupal stage, which is also aquatic and commonly called tumblers.
The last stage is the adult stage, which flies about looking for suitable hosts upon which to feed and sources of water where the female can lay eggs. Some mosquito species can complete their life cycle in about one week, but most species will take about 5-6 weeks. After emerging into adults, the males and females mate shortly after emergence, with actual mating taking place as females fly into large swarms of males.
SIGNS OF THEIR PRESENCE
Evidence of mosquito activity includes seeing larvae, pupae, or adults and being bitten by adult female mosquitoes. Other indicators of their presence include the occurrence of mosquito-borne diseases and the annoyance and itching from mosquito bites.
Mosquito prevention includes eliminating sources of water and using skin or clothing insect repellent. Also, make sure that doors and windows are well screened and kept shut when mosquitoes are active. Still other preventive tips include:
- Thinning out bushes and other places around the home or business where mosquitoes can find a shaded, protected place to rest during the daytime.
- Turning off unnecessary lights at night since mosquitoes are attracted to both incandescent and fluorescent lights.
- Using mosquito nets placed over beds and cots to help prevent mosquitoes from feeding when a person is asleep.
HOW TO CONTROL
Experience has proven over and over that controlling adult mosquitoes without also practicing prevention and elimination of developmental sources of water will not be successful in the long run. However, there are many good control products that should be part of an integrated mosquito management plan, some of which include:
- Mosquito insecticide aerosols that are formulated for use as space sprays both inside and outside.
- Liquid sprays that are effective to attack mosquitoes where they rest in vegetation and where they develop in water. Some examples of these products include:
- Bacterial and other compounds that interfere with the normal development of mosquito larvae.
- Compounds that create a surface film that keeps the immature stages from obtaining oxygen needed for survival.
- Products that work as insect growth regulators and interfere with the normal process of producing adult mosquitoes.
- Mosquito traps and zappers. While these products may control some mosquitoes in a small area, they are ineffective at providing long-term control over areas larger than the average homeowner’s back yard.