All mosquitoes lay eggs in water, which can include large bodies of water, standing water (like swimming pools) or areas of collected standing water (like tree holes or gutters). Females lay their eggs on the surface of the water, except for Aedes mosquitoes, which lay their eggs above water in protected areas that eventually flood. The eggs can be laid singly or as a group that forms a floating raft of mosquito eggs (see Mosquito Life Cycle for a picture of an egg raft). Most eggs can survive the winter and hatch in the spring.
The mosquito eggs hatch into larvae or "wigglers," which live at the surface of the water and breathe through an air tube or siphon. The larvae filter organic material through their mouth parts and grow to about 0.5 to 0.75 inches (1 to 2 cm) long; as they grow, they shed their skin (molt) several times. Mosquito larvae can swim and dive down from the surface when disturbed (see Mosquito Life Cycle for a Quicktime movie of free-swimming Asian tiger mosquito larvae). The larvae live anywhere from days to several weeks depending on the water temperature and mosquito species.
After the fourth molt, mosquito larvae change into pupae, or "tumblers," which live in the water anywhere from one to four days depending on the water temperature and species. The pupae float at the surface and breathe through two small tubes (trumpets). Although they do not eat, pupae are quite active (see Mosquito Life Cycle for a Quicktime movie of free-swimming Asian tiger mosquito pupae). At the end of the pupal stage, the pupae encase themselves and transform into adult mosquitoes.
Inside the pupal case, the pupa transforms into an adult. The adult uses air pressure to break the pupal case open, crawls to a protected area and rests while its external skeleton hardens, spreading its wings out to dry. Once this is complete, it can fly away and live on the land.
One of the first things that adult mosquitoes do is seek a mate, mate and then feed. Male mosquitoes have short mouth parts and feed on plant nectar. In contrast, female mosquitoes have a long proboscis that they use to bite animals and humans and feed on their blood (the blood provides proteins that the females need to lay eggs). After they feed, females lay their eggs (they need a blood meal each time they lay eggs). Females continue this cycle and live anywhere from many days to weeks (longer over the winter); males usually live only a few days after mating. The life cycles of mosquitoes vary with the species and environmental conditions.