How Fast and Far Can Mosquitoes Fly?
Despite recent events that have made Vampires an object of desire as opposed to danger, another such bloodsucker will never have the same luck. Mosquitoes have always, and forever will be, met with an irritated ‘tsk’, an annoyed ‘ow!’ and a frantic waving of the hands. However, despite the fact that these insects have such a hold on us, we know very little about them.
While we often see them simply as nondescript pests that buzz and bite, there are over 3,500 species of mosquitoes all over the world. And each species carries with it a set of rules and abilities, ranging from what they eat to where they eat. But let’s focus on the thing that make mosquitoes one of the most dreaded insects in the world: their ability to fly.
Where Did It Go?
How fast can the mosquito fly? Well, anyone who has ever tried to swat a mosquito would agree on two things:
a) They seem to fly closer to the speed of light
b) They possess the most frustrating but almost godlike ability to disappear just as we think when we have finally got them.
While these perceptions might make one think that a mosquito is some sort of mutated insect with superpowers that rival those of Flash Gordon, in reality an average mosquito flies at the speed of 1 to 1.5 miles an hour. This is despite the fact that a mosquito’s wings can beat anywhere from 300 to 600 times per second! Thus, while the mosquito may fool us into thinking that it is uncatchable, its speed tells us otherwise.
How far can they fly? While most mosquito species prefer to stay close to their places of birth, some species aren’t afraid to rack up the frequent flier miles. The Saltmarsh mosquitoes are one such species. While their average travelling distances range from 20 to 40 miles, extraordinary circumstances along with a convenient updraft have seen this species travel up to 100 miles from its breeding spot. These migrations are usually in the search of nectar or hosts for the mosquitoes to sustain themselves over a longer period of time. The fact that this specific species can fly so far is mostly because the journey is unidirectional and upwind.
On the other hand, the Asian Tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) has a far more limited flight range. Native to Southeast Asia, these mosquitoes are often averse to leaving home and maintain a flight range of 300 feet from their breeding site. To make up for its minimal range, the Asian Tiger mosquito can reach an altitude of up to 45 feet above the ground, while an average mosquito can only fly at an altitude of 25 feet or lower. Now while these two species are the extremes in terms of flight distance, it is safe to assume that the average mosquito has a flight range of 1 to 3 miles from the area it hatched in. Nevertheless, since mosquitoes travel on hosts, with adequate shelter and a host to constantly feed on, one might even say that a mosquito can go as far as its host can go.
So despite the fact that they have a limited flight range, research has shown us that mosquitoes are one of the most dangerous insects in the world. Ranging from malaria to yellow fever, mosquitoes have been known to carry and spread a number of highly lethal diseases. With a host possibly carrying a mosquito from one continent to another (and if it can survive the in-flight meal), it can create epidemics on a global level.
So the next time you hear the wing-induced signature buzzing of the mosquito, keep your swatter ready and your bug zappers on. They might be smaller than you and slower than you, but they are also trickier than you. So don’t give up and Happy Swatting!