The first rule of war is to know your enemy. So if you’re planning all out mosquito warfare, you’ll want to get your mosquito facts straight.
Here’s everything you need to know to defeat this pesky pest.
How long have mosquitoes been around?
These bastards have been around forever – well, since the Jurassic period, which means their species has been around for around 200 million years old and is still going strong.
The bad news is that we clearly face a formidable enemy. The good news is that they’re not just bother you and me – they once irritated some very great men. Even Aristotle wrote about them around 300 BC.
Which mosquitoes bite?
When it comes to mosquitoes, the fairer sex is the suckiest. Literally, since only female mosquitoes need the protein in blood to help her eggs develop.
The males feed entirely on fruit and plant nectar and don’t bother with humans – the only time you’ll see them hanging out around you is when they’re looking to mate with one of the blood-sucking females. The sound of the female’s wings – which beat up to 500 times per second – attracts the males, who tend to be bigger and scarier-looking but won’t suck your blood.
You can kill them anyway to prevent them from creating more mosquito babies, but if you miss – it’s cool, the males only live around 10 days (or less).
Why are there so many mosquitoes?
Here’s a scary mosquito fact – female mosquitoes can lay up to 300 eggs at a time. And she can do this up to three times before she dies. Since most female mosquitoes can live about six to eight weeks, that’s a lot of blood-sucking and egg-laying she’s able to do.
Even worse is the fact that in cold areas with temperatures less than 50 degrees, some mosquito species hibernate in holes while they wait for warmer weather. Females of these hibernating species can live up to six months!
Female mosquitoes lay their eggs in stagnant water, which is why it’s so crucial to make sure there’s no standing water around your property. They can lay there eggs in water that’s frozen (and the eggs will live until temperatures get warmer) so cold is no protection against mosquito eggs. Even scarier – eggs can hatch in as little as one inch of standing water so you really want to be thorough.
If you live in a mosquito-infested area and there is standing water around, there’s a good chance there’s some mosquito larvae hanging out there since mosquitoes spend their first 10 days in water. Once they hatch, they feed on organic matter in the water as they develop into pupae and then mature into adult mosquitoes.
Obviously, it’s easiest to destroy them before they develop into full-on, flying mosquitoes. You can do this easily by tossing some Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) pellets or powder into water where mosquito larvae live.
Why do I have so many bites?
Even if it’s just one annoying mosquito trapped in your room, you can get a whole lot of bites. That’s ’cause a mosquito can drink up to three times its weight in blood!
Mosquitoes also feed very frequently, both during the day and at night. Some species are daytime biters and some start biting at dusk and continue into the night so if you’ve got both kinds of mosquitoes around – you’re in for a lot of itchy bumps.
How do mosquitoes find you?
If you’ve ever had a mosquito infestation, you already know that these little buggers are incredibly skilled at locating their human targets. Research suggests that’s because mosquitoes have evolved to use visual, olfactory, and thermal cues to chase you down.
Translation: Mosquitoes detect the carbon dioxide (CO2) we breathe out whenever we exhale. They’re able to “smell” their dinner – you – from a distance of up to 50 meters this way. As they draw closer, they’re able to see you. And although mosquitoes can’t see very well, they’re able to use visual cues to navigate their way a little closer to you.
Once they get within a meter, your body heat marks you like a bulls eye. Mosquitoes have little heat sensors around their mouthparts to detect the warmth of the blood inside your body and locate the best place to suck your blood.
What attracts mosquitoes?
Ever been out with a group of people when a group of mosquitoes decide to join your table? And as you swat and smack away the furious attacks on your body, you notice that most of the people at your table aren’t getting bit at all – it’s just you.
Are mosquitoes more attracted to certain people?
There’s a massive amount of research being done on this topic and the consensus is that around 1 in 10 people are highly attractive to mosquitoes.
Here’s what we know about what mosquitoes consider the ideal hunk of human flesh:
- Genetics. Sorry to break it to you, but you just might be biologically destined to be mosquito food. Research shows that genetics account for around 85% of our susceptibility to mosquito bites.
- Sweat. Or more specifically, the combination of certain elements of our body chemistry that’s found on our skin’s surface. Mosquitoes love people with high concentrations of steroids, cholesterol, uric acid, as well as octenol and lactic acid released by the sweat glands.
- Breathing. More specifically, the CO2 you emit every time you exhale. This is why mosquitoes seem to be more attracted to larger people and pregnant women, since they produce more CO2.
- Heat. This is why dark clothing can attract more mosquitoes, since darker clothes retain more heat than lighter clothes.
- Movement. It’s probably not the movement itself, but the excess carbon dioxide that’s produced when you’re moving. Also, if you’re running around and exerting yourself, you’re probably warming up and producing both heat and sweat – a moving mosquito target.
- Fragrance. Certain fragrances – perfume, hairspray, cologne, shampoos, soaps, hand creams, fabric softeners – are known to attract mosquitoes.
Are mosquitoes attracted to light?
Yes and no. Yes, mosquitoes are attracted to incandescent light. No, they’re attracted to every kind of light. In fact, they seem to find yellow and red lighting unpleasant.
But if you don’t want to deck out your patio in yellow and red lighting – LED lights are a good, mosquito-safe option.
When do mosquitoes come out?
We wish there was just one time in the day or night when mosquitoes roamed around for their blood-sucking mischief, but unfortunately – different mosquito species have differing hunting hours.
Some species, like the Asian Tiger Mosquito, are early risers and bite mostly between the early afternoon to late afternoon while other species come out at dusk.
The good news is that mosquitoes generally don’t come out when it’s colder than about 50 degrees.
Are mosquitoes dangerous?
Sure, they’re annoying – but are they actually dangerous?
Yes. In fact, mosquitoes are considered the most dangerous animal in the world. Of course they don’t have the teeth of sharks or the venom of snakes, but mosquitoes top the list for human deaths by animals – killing around 725,000 of us each year.
Their lethal impact comes from the fact that mosquitoes carry devastating diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, West Nile virus, chikungunya, encephalitis, the recent Zika fever, and the list goes on and on.
If mosquito bites were nothing but itchy bumps, it’d be a tolerable nuisance, but considering how many lives these bites claim each year – protection is a must.
Note: No, mosquitoes do not transmit HIV. It’s digested in their stomachs and broken down so you’re safe from that at least.
Are there places without mosquitoes?
Sure, but nowhere you’d find livable.
Mosquitoes are found in every region of the world – except Antarctica. And here’s a disturbing fact: during the peak mosquito breeding seasons, they outnumber every other animal on Earth, except termites and ants.
But there are places that attract less mosquitoes than others. Here are a few rules of thumb:
- Mosquitoes prefer warmer climates with temperatures over 80 degrees. Hot, humid areas are especially loved by mosquitoes.
- Mosquitoes generally fly below 25 feet.
- Mosquitoes need stagnant water to lay their eggs, which is why ponds, marshes, swamps and other wetland areas can be prone to mosquito infestations.
Here’s a list of US cities with the most mosquitoes – if you’re thinking of moving, you’ll want to check out the list.
How do I prevent mosquito bites?
If you’re one of those people who mosquitoes find especially delicious, it can feel like a hopeless battle but armed with the right battle plans and armor – you can wave goodbye to mosquito bites once and for all.
Take a 2-step approach to preventing mosquito bites. The first is to protect yourself with topical or wearable mosquito repellents and the second step is to secure your environment. Here are the best guides to help you prevent mosquito bites forever…