Many people are surprised to learn that only female mosquitos bite animals and humans.
Female mosquitoes bite because animal blood provides the perfect package of nutrients necessary for their developing eggs. Basically, our blood is the perfect mosquito prenatal supplement.
Female mosquitoes use an organ called a maxillary palp to detect carbon dioxide that animals and humans emit while exhaling. They can also pick up on thermal cues like our body temperature, and even certain scents we emit, making them a relentless predator.
Culex mosquito larvae Photo by James Gathany CDC - A New Model courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Males are not capable of biting because they lack the specific mouthparts necessary for piercing skin. Like bees and butterflies, male mosquitoes are pollinators that feast on flower nectar. When female mosquitoes are not developing eggs, they feed on nectar as well.
So how can you prevent mosquito bites? Insect repellents are the most effective option. What you wear can play a role in protecting yourself as well. Long sleeves and pants can help, as well as mosquito nets placed over hats.
The time of day you are out matters as well; avoid being out during their most active periods of dawn and dusk. Although we consider mosquitoes a nuisance, they serve a valuable role in the ecosystem as an important food source for many animals, and as pollinators.
Fascinating mosquito facts:
- Mosquitoes are known from as far back as the Triassic Period – 400 million years ago.
- Active or fidgety people also produce more carbon dioxide and lactic acid.
- Smelly feet are attractive to certain species of mosquitoes – as is Limburger Cheese.
- A full moon increased mosquito activity 500% in one study.
- When a female feeds on blood their abdomen expands and can hold up to 3 times its own body weight in blood.
A mosquito on a hollyhock. Photo by Andres bjurnemark-Own Work CC BY-SA 3.0 courtesy of Wikimedia Commons