It’s Mosquito Time! Summer is the prime time for one of our least favorite insects: mosquitoes.  With the wet spring and early summer in many parts of the country, mosquito numbers are likely to be high this year.

Mosquitoe James Jordan Flickr Life Cycle and Ecology

Understanding the mosquito’s life cycle and ecology can help you avoid getting bitten.

• There are over 3,000 species of mosquitoes worldwide, with at least 150 in the U.S.

• Mosquitoes start life out as aquatic larvae in standing bodies of water such as ponds, swamps and marshes.  Their larvae can live in as little as an inch of water so even temporary puddles will serve as nurseries.

• Mosquitoes’ primary food source is flower nectar and fruit juices.  Only the female mosquito feeds on blood.  She uses the protein-rich blood meal to fuel the production of eggs.

• In the process of feeding on nectar, mosquitoes help to pollinate flowers.

• Female mosquitoes find their victims by sight and by following the chemical trail of carbon dioxide and water vapor from the breath of people and animals.

• Mosquitoes inject saliva into the bite to keep blood from clotting.  An allergic reaction to the saliva is what causes the resulting itchy welt.

• A female can lay 200-300 eggs at time on the surface of standing bodies of water.

• In the U.S. diseases such as West Nile Virus and canine heartworm are spread by mosquitoes.

• The vast majority of mosquitoes are eaten by predators.  Eggs and aquatic larvae are fed on by fish, salamander larvae and dragonfly nymphs.  Adults are eaten by birds, bats, amphibians, dragonflies and many other insects. Learn how to attract beneficial wildlife to your yard here.

COMING NEXT: How to avoid getting bitten.  Stay tuned!

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Published: July 22, 2009