16 Fascinating Facts About Mosquitoes

How long do mosquitoes live and why do mosquitoes even exist?

Mosquito close-up.
Getty Images/Tom Ervin/Stringer

Mosquitoes, the insects that are universally hated the world over. These pesky, disease-carrying pests make a living by sucking the blood out of just about anything that moves, including us. But take a moment to look at things from the mosquito's perspective. Mosquitoes are actually interesting creatures.

Mosquitoes Are the Deadliest Animals on Earth

Take that, shark week! More deaths are associated with mosquitoes than any other animal on the planet. Mosquitoes may carry any number of deadly diseases, including malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, Zika, and encephalitis. Mosquitoes also carry heartworm, which can be lethal to your dog.

How Long Do Mosquitoes Live?

An adult mosquito may live 5–6 months. Few probably make it that long, given our tendency to slap them silly when they land on us. But in the right circumstances, an adult mosquito has quite a long life expectancy, as bugs go. Most adult females live for two to three weeks. For those that winter in your garage, though—look out. Eggs can dry out for eight months and still hatch.

Females Bite Humans While Males Feed on Nectar

Mosquitoes mean nothing personal when they take your blood. Female mosquitoes need protein for their eggs and must take a blood meal in order to reproduce. Because males don't bear the burden of producing young, they'll avoid you completely and head for the flowers instead. When not trying to produce eggs, females are happy to stick to nectar, too.

Some Mosquitoes Avoid Biting Humans

Not all mosquito species feed on people. Some mosquitoes specialize on other animals and are no bother to us at all. Culiseta melanura, for example, bites birds almost exclusively and rarely bites humans. Another mosquito species, Uranotaenia sapphirina, is known to feed on reptiles and amphibians.

Mosquitoes Fly Slowly

Mosquitoes average a flight speed of 1 to 1.5 miles per hour. If a race were held between all the flying insects, nearly every other contestant would beat the pokey mosquito. Butterflies, locusts, and honeybees would all finish well ahead of the skeeter.

A Mosquito's Wings Beat 300–600 Times Per Second

This would explain that irritating buzzing sound you hear just before a mosquito lands on you and bites.

Mosquitoes Synchronize Their Wing Beats

Scientists once thought that only male mosquitoes could hear the wing beats of their potential mates, but recent research on Aedes aegypti mosquitoes proved females listen for lovers, too. When the male and female meet, their buzzing synchronizes to the same speed.

Salt Marsh Mosquitoes May Live 100 Miles Away

Most mosquitoes emerge from their watery breeding ground and stay pretty close to home. But some, like the salt marsh mosquitoes, will fly long distances to find a suitable place to live, with all the nectar and blood they could want to drink.

All Mosquitoes Need Water to Breed—but Not Much

Just a few inches of water is all it takes for a female to deposit her eggs. Tiny mosquito larvae develop quickly in birdbaths, roof gutters, and old tires dumped in vacant lots. Some species can breed in puddles left after a rainstorm. If you want to keep mosquitoes under control around your home, you need to be vigilant about dumping any standing water every few days.

Most Mosquitoes Can Travel Only 2–3 Miles

Your mosquitoes are basically your (and your neighbors') problem. Some varieties, like the Asian tiger mosquito, can fly only about 100 yards.

Mosquitoes Detect CO2 75 Feet Away

Carbon dioxide, which humans and other animals produce, is the key signal to mosquitoes that a potential blood meal is near. They've developed a keen sensitivity to CO2 in the air. Once a female senses CO2 in the vicinity, she flies back and forth through the CO2 plume until she locates her victim.

Bug Zappers Don't Attract Mosquitoes

Bug zappers give off light that attracts gnats, beetles, moths, and the like, but because mosquitoes are attracted to you by CO2, they are not effective at killing mosquitoes. They likely kill more beneficial insects and those eaten by songbirds than mosquitoes. They even take out parasitic wasps, which control other species.

How Do You Kill Mosquitoes?

Fogger machines that attract mosquitoes with CO2 and then trap them do work, but repellants for your yard and self may be the easiest and most cost-effective way to go.

Why Do Mosquitoes Exist?

Basically, mosquitoes exist because they're next to impossible to wipe out. Species don't exist in a vacuum; as long as they can find food and don't have environmental pressure against them, they'll continue. Mosquitoes are millions of years old as a species. In the ecosystem, they do serve as food for other species (birds, frogs, and fish) and as pollinators. The larvae eat detritus in the water, helping to clean it. There are more than 3,000 species of mosquitoes, but only about 200 bite humans.

Not Everyone Is Allergic to Mosquito Saliva

Mosquito saliva, which lubricates the proboscis to glide into the skin, is responsible for the itching and bump on your skin, but not everyone is allergic to mosquito saliva. Some people even avoid getting bitten, and their sweat is being studied to develop repellents.

Mosquitoes Have Benefitted Science

The design of their proboscis has inspired scientists to design less-painful hypodermic needles, examine strategies to make needle insertion easier, and create insertion guides to better place tiny electrodes into the brain.