What Do Mosquitoes Look Like?

A Close Look at These Annoying Pests Just Might Prove Quite Interesting

When was the last time you took a close look at a mosquito instead of immediately swatting it? Most people have never attempted to examine mosquitoes to see exactly what they look like. If you were to study the aesthetics of mosquitoes, you would find significant differences between them. So, what do mosquitoes look like? There are more than 3,000 different types of documented mosquito species. About 150 mosquito species live in the United States. Each mosquito species’ appearance, behavior and living spaces are quite unique.

Mosquito Aesthetics

Though mosquito species have idiosyncratic features, each has a single pair of wings. These wings are of the scaled variety. They also have a single pair of halteres. In terms of body composition, mosquitoes have thin bodies and elongated limbs. Each species has a unique size yet the typical mosquito is less than 2.5 mg in weight and measures less than 15 mm in length. Though mosquitoes seem quite fragile, they are remarkably tough.

Mosquitoes belong to the Culicidae family within the Diptera order. The Culicidae family is further segmented into three subgroups: Culicinae, Anophelinae and Toxorhynchitinae. All in all, 37 mosquito generas exist across the globe. These insects tend to live in warm climates with ample moisture though some reside in cool zones. However, mosquitoes do not stay in areas with freezing temperatures. In general, tropical areas, subtropics and other areas with considerable humidity attract mosquitoes.

Mosquito Eggs

Mosquito eggs are either permanent water eggs or the floodwater variety. Floodwater female mosquitoes lay eggs in moist substrate rather than standing water. Their eggs must be completely dry for a specific amount of time prior to becoming viable.

Permanent water mosquito eggs are dropped on the surface of the water. They can be dropped one-by-one or in a raft with upwards of 300 eggs. If these eggs dry, they will not hatch. Females drop their eggs in swamps, lakes and other permanent water bodies to ensure their offspring live. Hatching takes place in 24 hours or less.

Mosquito Development: Larval Mosquitoes

The mosquito’s larval stage is aquatic. Mosquito larvae do not have legs. They spend most of their time on the water. The larva moves by rapidly moving its abdomen, which propels the larva through the water.

Pupal Mosquitoes

This mosquito stage is also aquatic. Mosquito pupas are shaped similar to a comma. They spend most of their time on the water’s surface. This stage is comprised of two parts: the abdomen or tail and the cephalothorax or head/thorax. The parts of the mouth, wings, and legs of the adult mosquito develop in the form of sheaths that curl along the cephalothorax’s underside.

Adult Mosquitoes

Once mosquitoes reach adulthood, they feed on sugars found in plants and other insects that consume plant sugars. Female mosquitoes feed on blood while males are satisfied with plant sugar or the bodies of insects that consume plant sugar.

Is It a Mosquito, Midge or Crane Fly?

A fully-grown crane fly resembles a large male mosquito. Yet crane flies are a completely different group of insects. Crane fly females do not draw blood from targets. They are nothing more than a slight annoyance.

Midges are also commonly mistaken for mosquitoes. They often appear in large groups on buildings. Yet the majority of midges do not feed on victims’ blood. Though some midges bite, plenty are not hostile. The signature characteristic that separates mosquitoes from midges and crane flies is mosquitoes’ scaled wings and bodies.

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