10 Fascinating Facts About Mosquitoes

Behaviors and Traits of Mosquitoes

Mosquito close-up.
Mosquitoes may be pests, but they are also fascinating creatures. Getty Images/Tom Ervin/Stringer

Ah, 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, as demonstrated by these 10 fascinating facts.

1. 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, and encephalitis. Mosquitoes also carry heartworm which can be lethal to your dog.

2. Only female mosquitoes bite humans and animals; males feed on flower 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. Since males don't bear the burden of producing young, they'll avoid you completely and head for the flowers instead. And when not trying to produce eggs, females are happy to stick to nectar, too.

3. Some mosquitoes avoid biting humans altogether

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.

4. Mosquitoes are slow fliers

Mosquitoes average a flight speed of 1 to 1.5 miles per hour. That might sound fast, but they're not setting any insect speed records. If a race were held between all the flying insects, nearly every other contestant would beat the pokey mosquito. Butterflies, locusts, and honey bees would all finish well ahead of the skeeter.

5. 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.

6. Mosquito mates synchronize their wing beats to perform a lover's duet

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.

7. Salt marsh mosquitoes may live as far as 100 miles from where they hatched

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

8. All mosquitoes require water to breed—but not much water

Just a few inches of water is all it takes for a female to deposit her eggs. Tiny mosquito larva develop quickly in bird baths, 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.

9. 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.

10. Mosquitoes can detect carbon dioxide from 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.