Stave Off Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes can ruin a pleasant summer evening. With a little guidance, maybe you can minimize their impact.

| July/August 2017

They don’t evoke fear and loathing like snakes or spiders, but they can be far more dangerous. Mosquitoes are considered by many public health specialists to be among the deadliest creatures in the world because of the many diseases they help spread: malaria, dengue fever, eastern equine encephalitis, and Zika, to name a few. Of the more than 3,000 species of mosquitoes on earth (176 in the United States), only a small number carry diseases.

Mosquitoes are found on every continent except Antarctica. While mosquitoes reach their greatest diversity in warm, humid climates, there are quite a few species that inhabit northern environments, such as the tundra and the high altitudes of the Himalayan Mountains. In addition to natural distribution, many species have been introduced around the world by humans. The yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti), which also carries the Zika virus, originated in Africa, but was brought to the Western Hemisphere by European explorers hundreds of years ago. It has spread throughout southern North America, the Caribbean, and South America.

Life and Times of Mosquitoes

The name mosquito is Spanish, meaning “little fly,” and they are indeed in the same family as other flies. All mosquitoes have just one pair of wings. Both male and female mosquitoes feed mostly on flower nectar, but when the female is preparing to lay eggs, she feeds on blood from an animal. Blood is very high in protein, which is critical for the development of the eggs. After a female mosquito has her “blood meal,” she will rest and let her eggs fully develop before laying.

Some mosquitoes lay a single egg, while others may lay 200 to 300 at a time, and she may lay eggs two or three times before she dies. Depending on the species, female mosquitoes may live two to three weeks, or anywhere from two to six months.

Mosquito eggs are laid in a variety of areas that include but are not limited to standing water. Some mosquitoes lay their eggs at the edge of wet areas where they are conditioned by drying out and don’t hatch until the site is flooded. These eggs can survive droughts and remain viable for up to three years. These are referred to as “floodwater mosquitoes.” Other mosquitoes lay their eggs in permanent water sources, such as lakes, swamps, and marshes. Some mosquitoes prefer to lay their eggs in containers that have collected water, like tires, birdbaths, buckets, knot holes in trees, and so forth.

After hatching, mosquitoes will go through a larval stage, a pupa stage, and finally develop into an adult. The larval mosquitoes feed on organic matter, such as rotten vegetation, algae, bacteria, and more. During this stage, they are called “wigglers” and can be seen near the surface of the water. Most larval mosquitoes breathe air from the surface through a tube at the back of the body called a siphon.

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