We explain everything about mosquitoes, the types that exist and how they feed. Also, what are its characteristics and where it lives.

MosquitoMosquito
Mosquitoes transmit many diseases to humans and other species.

The mosquitos

It is known as mosquitoes or mosquitoes members of different families of dipterous insects (with a single pair of membranous wings), with a thin body and long legs. Their diet consists of sucking the internal juices of animals (females) and plants (males). For this reason, they transmit many diseases of the human being and other species.

Mosquitoes are world famous. Virtually all languages ​​have a term to name them. Its presence can be recorded in very old documentsAs the animal history of Aristotle, where he refers to them as “empis”. He gives an account of their double life cycle, aquatic and terrestrial, although he affirms that they originate spontaneously from putrefactive liquids.

Today they have been studied in depth and it was also understood that they play an important role in the transmission of many diseases. That’s why, there are campaigns aimed at reducing their numbers or eradicate them from cities and human populations, in order to reduce the transmission rate of said diseases.

See also: Myriapods

mosquito anatomy

Mosquitoes are small insects. Its long and dark body measures around 15mm.

Have three pairs of slender legs and one pair of wingswhich when flying usually emit a characteristic sound (and very annoying when one is about to sleep).

They have a mouth apparatus with a kind of trunk which is introduced into the body of mammals, birds and even reptiles, depending on the species. With it they can suck blood or other substances.

types of mosquitoes

aedes zika dengue mosquitoaedes zika dengue mosquito
Aedes are known for their white stripes.

There are 39 genera and almost 3500 species. known mosquitoes in the world. Of them only the family culicidae It is hematophagous (feeds on blood) and usually includes the genera:

  • anopheles. The most widely distributed of all mosquito genera, with 465 species recognized worldwide, 50 of which are capable of transmitting 4 different parasites to humans.
  • Culex. Another of the species with the greatest variety in the world, of which 88 different species are known only in Panama. They are capable of transmitting various serious diseases and usually bite at night.
  • aedes. Frequent throughout the world, but especially in tropical and subtropical areas, they are responsible for numerous viral diseases in humans and other animals. They are recognizable by the white bands on their legs and body, which gives them the nickname “white legs”.
  • you know. Mainly arboreal, these mosquitoes do not usually live with humans except in rural areas, and proliferate in South and Central America. They have shiny silver scales on their bodies.
  • ochlerotatus. Also considered a subgenus of the Aedes, they have the same white markings on their legs, and can be found even in high altitude locations, where mosquitoes are rare.
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mosquito habitat

The mosquitos they are quite cosmopolitan insects: they are all over the world. In each site they have adapted more or less to their environment, but they clearly prefer humid (with the literal presence of water) and dark places.

They usually hibernate in times when the temperature drops a lot.. They are known to prefer dark colors and are attracted to sources of heat.

Mosquito feeding

MosquitoMosquito
Many species of mosquitoes eat vegetarian diets.

Mosquitoes are not all blood suckers. In fact, only females of some species feed on blood. They generally feed on only one type of animal: birds, reptiles, mammals, etc. The males, on the other hand, usually feed on nectar or the vegetable juices of fruits and plants, through the same suction system.

There are, however, many species of mosquitoes that eat vegetarian diets, and even some that prey on larvae of other species. Some of these species play a certain important role in the pollination of flowers, for example.

reproduction of mosquitoes

mosquito - larvamosquito - larva
Mosquitoes lay their eggs in stagnant water and the larvae live there.

The mosquitos have a reproductive cycle with complete metamorphosis, that is to say that they must change drastically throughout their pre-adult phases. Its life cycle is usually around 15 days, depending directly on environmental heat.

Its reproductive cycle begins with the fertilization of the female, which deposits her eggs and begins the cycle. requires to have ingested blood first. It requires certain essential blood proteins for egg laying.

Eggs are laid in stagnant water (up to 1 cm of water is enough), in which the eggs hatch and the larvae emerge, whose life is aquatic and feed on microorganisms. They resemble small worms that must rise to the surface of the water from time to time to breathe.

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The larvae grow to shed their skin about four times, until they are ready for metamorphosis. Then the larvae build a kind of cocoon called a pupa, in which they undergo the changes that will give the adult ready to fly towards their adult life. During the pupal stage, mosquitoes do not feed and lead a quiet life.

Mosquito life span

The mosquitos they live about 15 days, except for males that lead a significantly shorter lifespan (one week). It is common for females to mate once in their life, and for each clutch to emerge a different number of larvae.

Many of the larvae are preyed upon by fish, tadpoles, and other insect larvae. However, if they survive, a new adult will emerge from each one, ready to repeat the cycle.

mosquito repellents

mosquitomosquito
There are sprays and ointments capable of repelling mosquitoes.

The mosquitos they choose their “prey” by the smell of their skin and the heat they give off. Sweaty and hot skins are especially attractive to them, since they contain more lactic acid.

They also employ the heat and carbon dioxide of our breath as a guide to find us even in the dark. This means that perfumes, light colors (less hot) and clean skin reduce the risk of being bitten.

Also there are substances specially designed to repel themLike the spray Metofluthrin or ointments rich in vitamin B1, a water-soluble amino acid that modifies the properties of sweating, making the skin less attractive to mosquitoes.

There are also sound and platelet repellents that act on a certain area, rather than on the body, but its effectiveness varies depending on the product and the conditions under which it is placed. Generally closed environments yield better results.

Diseases that transmit

Mosquitoes are important transmitters of diseases, among which are:

  • Yellow fever. The vector of this viral disease is the Aedes aegypti. It is known as black vomit, because in its most serious cases it can cause severe hemorrhagic and liver conditions, which manifest in bloody vomit. There is an effective vaccine against this disease, but not a cure, but a symptomatic treatment.
  • Dengue. The well-known “breakbone fever”, due to the chills and high fever it causes, as well as headaches and joint pain, is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti. In its hemorrhagic version, it fills the skin with small red spots and can be fatal if left untreated.
  • Zika fever. Caused by a virus transmitted by mosquitoes of the Aedes genus, it has symptoms similar to dengue, to which are added conjunctivitis, arthritis or temporary arthralgia, lasting about a week. However, its greatest risk is its link to microcephaly in fetuses, so pregnant women should avoid it at all costs.
  • Malaria. Also known as malaria, it is produced by parasites of the genus plasmodiumwhich enter the body through the bite of mosquitoes of the genus anopheles. It causes high fevers, headaches, chills, sweating, nausea, coughing, and can also cause bloody stools, muscle aches, jaundice, and, without treatment, coagulation defects, kidney and liver failure, and death.
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disease prevention

mosquitomosquito
One way to prevent mosquito-borne diseases is vaccination.

The fight against mosquito-borne diseases involves reducing exposure to the latter, through simple but effective actions, such as:

  • Fumigation campaigns. Especially in rainy seasons and in swampy or humid areas.
  • Repellent application. In the houses and on the body especially of the weakest (children, the elderly, pregnant women).
  • Elimination of stagnant water. Whether in containers with plants, old tires, etc. to decrease the reproduction rate of the mosquito.
  • Vaccination days. To the population and visitors, when possible.

Differences between mosquito and mosquito

There is no difference between these two terms, which are exactly synonymous. The universal preference is for mosquito, perhaps the more generic of the two terms.

However, in certain countries of Hispanic America such as Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Honduras and Chile, the use of “zancudo” is preferred. its etymology It comes from the Latin dungeon“leg”with a similar origin to that of the word strides.

References:

  • “Mosquito” on Wikipedia.
  • “The mosquitoes” in Botanical-Online.
  • “Mosquito”in BioEncyclopedia.
  • “Diseases transmitted by mosquitoes (ETM)”in Government of the City of Buenos Aires.
  • “Mosquitoes: bites, remedies, curiosities”in Very Interesting.
  • “The Hateful and Deadly Mosquito” (video) by Rose Eveleth at TED-Ed.
  • “Mosquitoes” in National Geographic.
  • “Mosquito” in The Encyclopaedia Britannica.

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