I’ve heard it said that the female is the most deadly in all biological species. This is certainly true of mosquitoes, for it is only the female that bites. Male mosquitoes are not even capable of biting, having a different type of proboscis. Both male and female mosquitoes survive by eating plant nectar and fruit juices which provides the sugar that is their metabolic fuel.
Female mosquitoes do not need blood to survive. They do, however, need blood, or actually the protein in blood, for their eggs to develop. They must take a blood meal as part of their reproductive cycle. If they don’t, the eggs they lay will not be viable.
The proteins in the blood are broken down into amino acids, which are then used to produce yolk protein precursors that are necessary in the development of the eggs. Once the eggs have developed, the female mosquito then lays them in water or moist soil, depending on the species.
Mosquitoes pass through four stages in their life cycle; egg, larva, pupa, and adult. According to the American Mosquito Control Association website, www.mosquito.org/mosquito-information/, the eggs of most species hatch within 48 hours, but some species survive harsh winters by postponing hatching until warmer weather arrives. After hatching, the larva, sometimes called “wrigglers” because of their jackknifing motions in water, spend part of their time near the surface where they breath through a tube, and part of their time submerged where they filter feed on the microorganisms in the water. The larvae continue to grow, molting several times, until they eventually reach the pupal stage. There they rest, no longer feeding, until finally reaching the adult stage. The new adult mosquito must lie on the surface of the water until its wings dry and its body parts harden. It will then be several days before mating and blood feeding occurs.
These developmental stages are temperature sensitive, and for most species can take anywhere from a few days to a month for the entire process. For a few species that live in cold climates, it can take many months.
The fact that mosquitoes bite humans is often seen as a nuisance, but it’s much more than that. Mosquitoes are the vector of a great many illnesses, such as malaria, dengue fever, and West Nile Virus, and are responsible for many deaths worldwide each year. In order to control these diseases, effective means of controlling the mosquito populations must be developed and implemented. Research is currently being performed by many organizations to do just that.