Mosquitoes are present year round in Florida, but may become more prevalent when the nighttime weather gets a little warmer and the daily Florida rainstorms begin. Mosquitoes are annoying and can cause itchy and stinging bites, but they can also carry and spread disease. Understanding the life cycle of a mosquito can help Florida residents to take action to keep mosquitoes away from the home and prevent bites.
Mosquito Breeding Habits
Mosquitoes lay eggs in standing water sources, depositing the eggs on the side of the container or embankment. Any water that has been stagnant for at least a week can serve as a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Female mosquitoes of most species take a blood meal before laying eggs. In some mosquito species, the protein from the blood meal is required in order to lay eggs. In other species, females are capable of laying more eggs once a blood meal has been consumed, but the meal is not required for the process.
About two to four days after being deposited in water, mosquito eggs hatch to become larva. Mosquito larva lives in water through the entire life stage, feeding on microorganisms and organic matter. Mosquito larva breathes through spiracles on the abdomen, surfacing for oxygen frequently. Larva propels through the water using mouth brushes and jerky movements of the body. Larvae molt three times to develop through four stages, after which they metamorphose into pupae.
Mosquito pupae swim actively, flipping the abdomen and moving in a tumbling motion. Pupae do not feed. Pupae breathe through respiratory trumpets on their cephalothoraces, so they are most commonly found near the surface of water. After a few days, the pupa will rise to the surface of the water and the adult mosquito will emerge from a split in the cephalothorax.
Adult mosquitoes have compound eyes, a pair of many-segmented antennae, and a proboscis for feeding. The antennae of male mosquitoes are bushier, so that the insect can detect the whine of female mosquitoes. The female proboscis is typically longer, as female mosquitoes feed on blood and the nectar from plants, whereas males only feed on nectar. Wings and three pairs of legs are attached to the thorax of most mosquito species.
Life Cycle and Diapause
The first three stages of the mosquito life cycle typically last between five and fourteen days. The life expectancy for an adult mosquito can vary considerably based on the ability to find food sources and avoid predators, but generally ranges between five and forty days. If mosquitoes are unable to find food or if conditions are freezing or waterless, some mosquitoes are able to delay development by entering into diapauses. This is a dormant state in which mosquitoes can survive without feeding until conditions are more favorable.