If you are like most people you probably think of mosquitoes as annoying insects with a fierce bite that causes itchy welts. It may surprise you to learn that of the 3,000 species of mosquitoes worldwide fewer than 200 of them actually bite humans. These summer time pests appear in swarms when the weather is wet and warm, but then suddenly disappear when temperatures drop below 50. You may have found yourself wondering "Where do mosquitoes go in winter?" The truth is, it depends on the mosquito.
Where do mosquitoes go in winter?
Many mosquitoes die off when the temperature drops in the fall, but that isn't true of all mosquitoes. Some adult mosquitoes crawl into cracks and crevices for shelter during the winter. These mosquitoes thaw out in the spring and continue on their merry way. But, most mosquitoes over winter in the egg stage.
How do mosquitoes survive the winter?
Some mosquitoes hibernate during the winter and awake in the spring when temperatures rise above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. But, most mosquitoes over winter in the egg stage. The female lays eggs in the late fall before a hard frost occurs. The egg enters a process called diapause. When in diapause the development process is halted and the egg survives in a sort of suspended animation. Once the weather warms in the spring, the egg begins to develop, beginning the mosquito's new life cycle all over again.
Life Cycle of a Mosquito
Like many insects, the life cycle of a mosquito consists of four stages:
- Egg: The adult mosquito lays eggs in or near standing water. Typically eggs are laid on the surface of water, but some mosquito species lay their eggs in moist soil. Within 24 to 48 hours the eggs hatch into larva.
- Larva: Larva spend their time in water, coming to the surface to breathe. Larva molt several times as they grow, leaving behind the a shell of an exoskeleton. This stage takes 7 to 10 days.
- Pupa: Larva transform into the pupa stage. In this stage, the mosquito is forming inside a 'shell' similar to the way butterflies and moths develop inside a chrysalis or cocoon. This stage lasts several days, depending on the species of mosquito.
- Adult: The pupa rises to the surface of the water and splits open. The adult mosquito emerges and rests on top of the water until the wings are dry and it is able to fly. Some adult mosquitoes can live for 5 to 6 months, while others only live a few days.
Interesting Facts About Mosquitoes
- Only female mosquitoes bite. They need the protein from your blood to develop eggs, so you are the first step in their reproduction process.
- Male mosquitoes feed on nectar and are useful for pollinating flowers.
- The reproduction rate of mosquitoes depends on the climate. Their life cycle speeds up in warmer weather and slows down when temperatures are cooler.
- Mosquitoes only need a few inches of water to breed.
- Mosquitoes find you by smell. They are attracted to the carbon dioxide you breathe out, the smell of sweat on your body and to other chemicals your body releases.
- Mosquitoes have a heat sensor that allows them to detect the warmth of your body.
- Mosquitoes inject a chemical that makes your blood thinner so they can drink your blood easier.
- Mosquito salvia causes an allergic reaction that causes you to itch.
- Some people are not allergic to mosquito salvia and do not develop welts or experience itching from mosquito bites.
How to Control Mosquitoes
There are some things you can do to keep mosquitoes under control.
- Remove any sources of standing water. Remember mosquitoes only need an inch or two of water to breed. Make sure to empty birdbaths, the saucers on plant pots and any other containers that gather water around your home.
- Use insect repellent. Try Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus or repellents containing DEET or Picaridin.
- Try chewing mint or chocolate. The scent of mint and chocolate are thought to mask the scent of carbon dioxide making you more difficult for mosquitoes to locate.
You can also buy foggers for your yard to keep mosquitoes at bay, but don't be fooled into thinking a bug zapper will solve the problem. Bug zappers attract insects by light and will not attract mosquitoes. If you are overrun with mosquitoes or other household pests that are beyond your control, reach out to a professional to take care of the problem for you.