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Mosquito Life Cycle

Mosquitoes are insects belonging to the order Diptera, true flies. They have two wings, but unlike other flies, mosquito wings have scales. Female mosquito mouthparts form a syringe like structure called a proboscis. This specialized mouth part is required to bite animals and take a blood meal. Female mosquitoes need blood so that they have the required protein that they need to produce eggs. Males differ from females by having a feathery antennae and mouthparts not suitable for piercing the skin.

In Europe, mosquitoes were called "gnats" by the English, "Les cousins" by French writers, while the Germans used the name "Stechmucken." In Scandinavian countries mosquitoes were called "myg" and the Greeks called them "konopus." In 300 B.C., Aristotle referred to mosquitoes as "empis" in his "Historia Animalium" where he documented their life cycle and metamorphic abilities.

Today, there are about 2500 known species of mosquitoes throughout the world; about 200 species occur in the United States. Each mosquito species has a Latin scientific name, such as Culex tarsalis. Culex is the Genus name of a group of closely related mosquitoes and tarsalis is the species name that represents a group of individuals that are similar in morphology and capable of interbreeding.

Mosquitoes; like many other insects, go through four separate and distinct stages of life: Egg, Larva, Pupa, and Adult.

Eggs are either laid attached together to form "rafts" on the surface of the water or one at a time in moist soil and debris. Rafts can consist of up to 300 eggs. Mosquitoes prefer water where they are sheltered from wind by grass and weeds. A female mosquito may lay two or three egg rafts during her life span.

Larva (plural- larvae) live in the water and come to the surface to breathe. Larva shed (molt) their skin four times, growing larger after each molt. The periods between molting are called instars. This is the most vulnerable stage of the mosquito lifecycle to mosquito control efforts.

Pupa (plural- pupae) is a stage where mosquitoes rest, do not feed, and undergo metamorphism. This is similar to other insects like Monarch Butterflies. However, mosquito pupae are mobile and respond to stimulus.  The pupae rapidly move (often referred as tumbling) with a flip of their tails towards the bottom or protective areas to avoid threats.

The adult mosquito emerges, rests, dries, and its body parts harden. The mosquito waits a couple days for a blood meal and or mating. The length of every stages of development varies by each species' characteristics and temperature. Some life cycles can take as little as four days or as long as several months.