Lifecycle of a Mosquito
The life of a mosquito begins in the water and ends in the air. Undergoing a metamorphosis any sci-fi buff would admire, radical transformations must occur in order to change a water insect into one that flies. A mosquito achieves this by developing through four different life stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.
Nearly all mosquito eggs are laid in pools of water. These are stagnant pools with no flowing water to disturb the eggs. If you have a pond,birdbath, or even a long-standing puddle in your yard, you could be harboring a mosquito nursery! The eggs tend to clump together in what is called an “egg raft”, floating along the water’s surface. The length of gestation depends on the species, with some incubating for a few days, while others can survive in egg form all throughout winter until spring comes. Whether they were an egg for a few days or weeks, they will eventually hatch into the next phase of their lifecycle.
A mosquito larva is essentially nothing but a cylindrical body with a head and mouth. The larva live on the water’s surface where they hatched, breathing through a siphon in their abdomen. They are able to swim away under the surface if they are threatened by predators. They feed on algae and other nutrients found at the water’s surface. As they grow, they shed their skin several times until they are ready to move on toward the next stage in their lifecycle.
During the pupa stage, the mosquito does not do much other than grow. The pupa consists of a curled casing inside which an adult mosquito is developing. The pupa does not eat. It only swims to avoid predators and to breathe. A mosquito may stay in the pupal stage anywhere from a few days to weeks. This largely depends on environmental factors such as temperature as well as differences between species.
At long last, when the conditions are just right, the pupa breaks open and a full grown mosquito slowly emerges. The mosquito’s exoskeleton is soft and its wings are wet at this point, so it rests on the water’s surface until the clear, soft exoskeleton hardens into the dark brown we know so well. The mosquito then finds a place of safety where it slowly opens its wings and allows them to dry. It is now fully transformed from an aquatic larva to a terrestrial and aerial insect.
Mating usually happens soon after emergence into adulthood. Not all mosquitoes are bloodsuckers. Needing the extra nutrients to feed the eggs growing inside of her, it is the female mosquito that goes out in search of a blood meal. Male mosquitoes generally feed on sugary sources of food, like nectar. Female mosquitoes are also attracted to sugary foods and eat them in addition to blood. Females can live for a few weeks, reproducing as much as possible, while males typically die after seven to ten days.
The life cycle of a mosquito from egg to adult depends largely on the environment, with each stage varying drastically depending on several factors. For example, a 10 degree change in temperature from 70 degrees Fahrenheit to 80 degrees Fahrenheit can increase the duration of the developmental stages by four days from 14 to 10. In other cases, some mosquitoes take a full month to develop fully while others in very warm climates may develop in only 4 days. On average, the first 3 stages of development take about 5-14 days to complete. That coupled with the average adult lifespan of 7-14 days gives a total lifespan of a mosquito of 2-4 weeks.
Understanding the lifecycle of a mosquito can help professional mosquito control services eradicate them, and help you avoid them. Now that you’ve armed yourself with knowledge of the enemy, go out and enjoy a bite-free summer!