What Purpose do Mosquitoes Serve?

It’s often said that mosquitoes serve no purpose other than to annoy humans. This is easy to believe as you are swatting away these bothersome insects while trying to enjoy the outdoors, but it is of course not true.

There are over 3,500 mosquito species and not all of them bite humans, either because they don’t live in places that people frequent or because they prefer to feed on other animals. Only some species are considered pests. But what purpose do mosquitoes actually serve?

Mosquitoes are Pollinators

Believe it or not, mosquitoes are pollinators. In fact, mosquitoes’ primary food source is flower nectar, not blood. Just like bees or butterflies, mosquitoes transfer pollen from flower to flower as they feed on nectar, fertilizing plants and allowing them to form seeds and reproduce. It’s only when a female mosquito lays eggs does she seek a blood meal for the protein. Males feed only on flower nectar and never bite. 

Blunt-leaf orchid plant.
The blunt-leaf orchid is pollinated by mosquitoes. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Beyond pollination, mosquitoes are part of the food web, serving as important prey in both winged adult and aquatic larval form for a lot of other wildlife from dragonflies and turtles to bats and birds—including hummingbirds, which rely on small flying insects and spiders as a primary food source. 

So, though annoying to us humans, like all species in existence, mosquitoes do have a purpose and an ecological role to play.

The good news is that few plant species are totally dependent on mosquitoes for pollination, although there are some orchids found in the wild for which mosquitoes are a primary pollinator. Similarly, there are few if any animal species that feed exclusively on mosquitoes.

Mosquito-Minded Measures

So it’s ok to take measures to reduce the mosquito population around your home. Just be careful in how you go about doing it. Avoid spraying pesticides, either those you purchase yourself or by hiring one of the residential mosquito spray companies that have proliferated in recent years.

Ruby throated hummingbird.
Mosquitoes are a food source for hummingbirds and other wildlife. Photo: Chris Farkouh.

These broad-spectrum insecticide sprays can have a significant negative impact on bees, butterflies, and other wildlife such as songbirds that rely on insects for food. Such sprays also target adult mosquitoes which is not the most effective way to reduce populations. Focusing on larval control is most effective and you don’t need sprays for that.

Instead, follow these three natural ways to reduce mosquito bites so you can enjoy the outdoors without having a negative impact on other wildlife.

Get more wildlife gardening tips from Naturalist David Mizejewski.

This blog is a part of a series on managing mosquitoes. More blogs in the series: 

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