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Mosquitoes are one of nature’s most hated insects. Their tendency to snack on humans, leaving itchy red bumps in their wake, is reason enough for most people to add the mosquito to their list of annoying bugs. Mosquitoes can also be the carriers of deadly diseases in some areas, rendering them something to be afraid of in the eyes of many. Despite this annoyance, mosquitoes are amazing creatures with a rich evolutionary past.
The Beginning: The Evolution of the Mosquito
According to scientific studies, it is believed that mosquitoes are actually in the same family as the house fly. Approximately 200 million years ago the mosquito began its transformation into the creature we know and see today. These studies also show that the modern mosquito looks and behaves very similarly to its predecessors.
The first time the mosquito made its entrance into the world was approximately 79 to 100 million years ago. Scientists have discovered multiple pieces of amber with fossilized mosquito-like insects inside. These insects have been linked to the modern-day mosquito and are likely its earlier evolutionary stages. Mosquitoes are still evolving, and their changes are being tracked today by contemporary scientists.
The Modern Mosquito
As a constantly changing species, the mosquito has presented new information and challenges to scientists across the centuries. The mosquito has evolved into quite a hardy insect that can meet the challenges of living and thriving in many different types of modern environments.
The best mosquito habitat is a hot and moist areas with stagnant water (such as a still pond) in which to lay their eggs. However, mosquitoes have also established successful breeding grounds in some frozen areas of the arctic. The only place mosquitoes cannot live is Antarctica.
Some mosquitoes can breed in puddles or containers filled with water or even in areas with polluted, acidic, or brackish bodies of water. Like most animals and insects, mosquitoes are still dependent upon their environment to gain the proper amount of time for their life cycle and find enough food even despite their ability to live in many different climates.
There are many species of animals that eat insects as part of their diet. Mosquitoes are not a common menu item for most animals, but for some, they are the primary source of food. Dragonflies and damsel flies, as well as many different types of fish, feed primarily on mosquitoes in their various life stages.
Mosquitoes begin their life cycle as eggs, nourished by the blood extracted from hosts (like humans or animals). They are laid by the female mosquito in or around bodies of water. These eggs hatch into larvae within 2-4 days and continue to live just beneath the surface of the water, breathing through small tube-like chambers. Approximately one week after hatching, larvae become pupae, remaining within the water and developing slowly into adult mosquitoes. Once they have fully developed, the adults emerge from the water and dry their wings.
Male and female mosquitoes are incredibly different, both in behavior and abilities. Male mosquitoes will search for nectar to eat, while females will seek out hosts from which to draw blood to nourish themselves and their eggs. Female mosquitoes can lay up to 100 eggs at a time. Male mosquitoes do not eat blood.
The modern mosquito has become more hardy and resistant to disease, as well. Mosquitoes in some areas of the world, such as Africa, are vectors of diseases like malaria, West Nile Virus, and yellow fever. When infected female mosquitoes approach humans and animals to acquire a blood meal, the disease can spread through the contact.
Mosquito Bite Prevention and Remedies
If mosquitoes are a problem near your home, there are measures that can be taken to reduce their population or restrict their ability to breed. Mosquitoes live and breed around stagnant water, so it is important that such areas are drained or removed if possible. Putting screens on windows can prevent mosquitoes from entering and becoming a nuisance inside the home. Mosquito repellants come in spray and cream form, and can help prevent mosquitoes from approaching short-term.