Mosquitoes

Few people like mosquitoes. They bite. They leave itchy spots. They can even carry diseases in some parts of the world.


Mosquitoes have been attracting more attention in the US because of a disease which showed up near New York City for the first time in the fall of 1999. The disease is called West Nile Fever and it is spread by mosquitoes. It is more common in parts of Africa, Europe and Asia. It is also more common in birds than in people. It can be a serious illness for young children and the elderly. Mosquitoes also spread a disease to dogs called heartworm.

In other parts of the world, mosquitoes spread malaria and yellow fever which are also serious illnesses.

What Good are Mosquitoes?

Well for one thing, mosquito larvae and pupae are good food for many kinds of fish. Adult mosquitoes provide food for huge numbers of insect-eating birds and bats. In fact, some people encourage birds and bats to live nearby to help control mosquitoes. They build houses for Purple Martins and for bats.

Mosquitoes have kept people from wanting to live in some areas. This has left these places as refuges for other wild plants and animals to live.

So there are a few good things to say about mosquitoes, but it is not a good idea to get a lot of mosquito bites.

Protection

You can keep from getting bitten by wearing insect repellent to keep mosquitoes away from you. Smell is an important sense for mosquitoes trying to find a person or other animal to feed on. If you know you will be in a place with a lot of mosquitoes, like in camp during the evening, wear a long sleeve shirt and long pants to make it harder for mosquitoes to get to bare skin.

If you have been bitten by a mosquito visit "Hey, A Mosquito Bit Me" for tips about avoiding infection and easing the itch.

Life Cycle

Some female mosquitoes spend the winter in protected places like caves and the basements of houses. When the air begins to warm in the spring, they lay eggs in small pools of water. Other kinds of mosquitoes lay eggs in the fall which can survive the winter and then hatch. Mosquito eggs usually float until they hatch. The mosquito larvae which hatch from the eggs have a tube at their tail end which works like a snorkel to get air when they hang below the surface of the water. Larvae eat microscopic plants and animals in water. They are very active swimmers. Sometimes mosquito larvae are called wrigglers.

When it grows large enough, a larva turns into a comma-shaped pupa that floats near the surface of the water. It has two little snorkels near its head which have to poke through the water surface to get air. The pupa's job is to allow the aquatic larva to become a winged adult.

The adult that hatches from the pupa will leave the water and live on land and in the air. Adult mosquitoes eat fruit and flower nectar. Females eat blood before they lay eggs. They need blood to form the eggs they will lay. Adult male mosquitoes don't need to eat blood. After a male and a female mosquito get together, the female can lay more eggs to start the life cycle all over again.

Fewer Homes for Mosquitoes

How can you make your home less attractive to mosquitoes? The New York State Department of Health has some ideas. They include making sure there aren't many wet places for mosquitoes to lay their eggs. Look around your home or school yard. Are there wet places where mosquitoes could lay eggs that you can get rid of or empty?

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