Mosquito Ecology

Mosquitoes are two-winged flies that belong to the family Culicidae in the order Diptera. There are approximately 3,500 species of mosquitoes. The family Culicidae is divided into three subfamilies: Toxorhynchitinae, Anophelinae, and Culicinae. Worldwide, there are 37 genera of mosquitoes. Mosquitoes live in humid tropics and subtropics, warm moist climates, temperate and cool zones - everywhere except areas that are permanently frozen.

Mosquitoes undergo holometabolous, or complete, metamorphosis, meaning their life cycle includes 4 distinct forms: eggs , larvae , pupae, and adults. Their eggs require water to hatch. The larvae develop through 4 instars before they transform into active, non-feeding pupae. The adultís wings, sucking mouthparts, and legs can be seen through the transparent pupal skin. The adult emerges from the pupal skin onto the surface of the water, and then flies to seek carbohydrates and mates. The adults and larvae are anatomically different, reside in different habitats (terrestrial vs. aquatic, respectively), and obtain nutrients from entirely different sources of food.

 There have been 80 species of mosquitoes identified from various collections in Florida. They all vary to some extent in their individual preferences for types of blood meals, egg laying sites, time of day they will fly, temperature at which they are most active, and seasonality. This section provides in-depth information on several aspects of mosquito biology including mosquito eggs, larvae, pupae, adults, nutrition, habitats, and identification. The details on the biology of Florida mosquitoes are vital to understanding how pest and disease vectoring mosquito populations arise. Knowing these details of mosquito biology is critical to understanding the most appropriate and effective means of control.

All mosquitoes require standing water or moist soil to breed, but the type of water they prefer depends on the species. Some prefer containers, such as tires, tree holes, buckets, and water troughs. Others prefer water with lots of organic material (leaves, grass) that is very stagnant. Still others breed primarily in swamps and marshes, some fresh water, and some salt water. Which species are most important in disease transmission depends on the location, virus, and other animals (amplification hosts) involved. Control of these different types of mosquitoes obviously requires different approaches. Some can be affected by measures taken at individual stables, such as reducing or cleaning water holding containers. Other species require more extensive management, such as impoundments, truck or aerial sprays, and treatment of ditches or other large bodies of water.

Female mosquitoes bite animals, using the blood as a protein source to develop eggs. The eggs are laid in or near water, hatch (some require flooding, others hatch immediately), and begin larval development. Development from egg to adult can be completed in as little as 6-7 days in the summer. Some species will bite almost any type of animal, while others are very specific. Different species vary in their preferred time to feed, but many feed during dawn or dusk. Mosquitoes tend to bite anywhere on the horse, unlike some other flies which concentrate on the midline, face or legs.

Additional Information

General information web sites:

Florida Mosquito Control Association.

University of Florida, Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, Encephalitis Information System.

University of Florida, Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory Website.

Other references:

Jorge R. Rey. 2001. The Mosquito.

Lord, C.C and C.R. Rutledge. 2001. Protecting Florida Horses from Mosquitoes.

O'Meara, G.F. 2000. Crabhole Mosquito, Deinocerites cancer Theobald (Insecta: Diptera: Culicidae).

Rutledge, C. R. 2003. Mosquito Control Devices and Services for Florida Homeowners.

Rutledge, C. R. and J. F. Day. 2002. Mosquito Repellents.