There are more than 2,700 species of mosquitoes in the world, and there are 13 mosquito genera (plural for "genus") that live in the United States. Of these genera, most mosquitoes belong to three:
- Aedes - These are sometimes called "floodwater" mosquitoes because flooding is important for their eggs to hatch. Aedes mosquitoes have abdomens with pointed tips. They include such species as the yellow-fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti) and the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus). They are strong fliers, capable of travelling great distances (up to 75 miles/121 km) from their breeding sites. They persistently bite mammals (especially humans), mainly at dawn and in the early evening. Their bites are painful.
- Anopheles - These tend to breed in bodies of permanent fresh water. Anopheles mosquitoes also have abdomens with pointed tips. They include several species, such as the common malaria mosquito (Anopheles quadrimaculatus), that can spread malaria to humans.
- Culex - These tend to breed in quiet, standing water. Culex mosquitoes have abdomens with blunt tips. They include several species such as the northern house mosquito (Culex pipiens). They are weak fliers and tend to live for only a few weeks during the summer months. They persistently bite (preferring birds over humans) and attack at dawn or after dusk. Their bite is painful.
Some mosquitoes, such as the cattail mosquito (Coquilettidia perturbans), are becoming more prevalent pests as humans invade their habitats.
Let's examine how mosquitoes live and breed.
Life Cycle and Breeding
Like all insects, mosquitoes hatch from eggs and go through several stages in their life cycle before becoming adults. The females lay their eggs in water, and the larva and pupa stages live entirely in water. When the pupa change into adults, they leave the water and become free-flying land insects. The life cycle of a mosquito can vary from one to several weeks depending upon the species (the adult, mated females of some species can survive the winter in cool, damp places until spring, when they will lay their eggs and die.)
We’ll look at the stages of mosquito development in the next section.