Mosquitoes must have water to complete their life cycle. They undergo a complete metamorphosis, with four distinct stages in their development: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. It takes about a week for mosquitoes to undergo metamorphosis before the adult emerges, but it can happen as quickly as four days. The female mosquito lays eggs, either in groups called rafts on the water’s surface, or singly on damp soil or the sides of containers. Whether the mosquito lays its eggs singly or in rafts and on water or on soil is determined by its species.
Some species are dependent on permanent water bodies for their life cycle and the juveniles (larvae and pupae) develop more slowly than floodwater species, which are dependent on rain events or high tides to wet their eggs. It can take as little as ½ inch of water for larvae to begin developing. After the eggs hatch the larvae, also called wrigglers and wigglers, swim in the water and feed on small plants, animals, or organic matter. Larvae molt their exoskeleton four times, growing larger after each molt. The phases in the larva's life are called instars. The instars must come to the surface of the water to breathe, with the exception of a few specialized mosquitoes. At the end of the fourth larval instar, the pupa emerges. The pupal stage is a resting, non-feeding aquatic stage, which also must come to the surface to breathe.
After a short time, generally a day or two, the adult mosquito emerges from the pupa, stands on the water to allow its wings to dry, and flies away. After mating and taking a blood meal, a female mosquito will lay her eggs and begin the cycle once again. It is only the female mosquitoes that bite, needing blood to nourish their eggs. Both male and female mosquitoes feed on nectar for energy.
There are 36 species of mosquitoes in Pinellas County, with many different habitat preferences. Mosquitoes are found in mangrove swamps, cypress swamps, tidal creeks, ditches, fields, ponds, lakes, seepage areas, rainwater pools, borrow pits, and containers. “Domestic” mosquitoes are those that are found in standing water around people’s homes. Mosquito species have different feeding preferences; some feeding only on birds, some on both birds and humans, and others actually feed on amphibians.
Different species also have different flight ranges. Some stay within a few feet of where they’re born (domestic mosquitoes) whereas salt marsh mosquitoes are capable of flying several miles.
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