Understanding mosquito life cycles can help you better manage them in your yard, patio, and garden.
Mosquitoes are among the most adaptable and resilient insects on our planet. They're also among the most difficult to control and get rid of. Not every species of mosquito will cause problems for you, your family, and your pets, but many species can have a negative impact. At the very least, mosquitoes are commonly known as nuisance insects.
There are approximately 175 mosquito species found in the United States, with more than 3,000 other species to be found worldwide. Mosquitoes can be found to some degree or another, virtually anywhere in the world, as long as there is somewhat temperate weather ( > 40⁰ - 50⁰ F). In other words, they thrive in warmish to warm and (especially) hot climates. They also need some type of standing water source, natural or somehow man-made, to be able to reproduce. Note that mosquitoes have been discovered in mines as far as a mile below the earth's surface, and up on mountain peaks up to nearly three miles above sea level.
Mosquitoes vs. Flies
Mosquitoes are easily distinguished from flies and other flying insects by their long, straw-like proboscis extending from their heads (through which they can feed on the blood of humans and animals). They also feature scales on the veins in their wings.
Mosquito Life Cycle in Days
All mosquitoes need some type of standing water to reproduce, but otherwise, different species live in different habitats. These insects are typically classified into two types: permanent water mosquitoes and flood water mosquitoes. Permanent water mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing bodies of water such as marshes and ponds, while flood water mosquitoes can lay eggs in anything from a bottle cap filled with rainwater to damp soil that will become "flooded" in the near future (mosquito eggs can remain dormant in dry conditions for up to 100 days until rains return). Some species of mosquito have evolved to the point that they will only lay their eggs in either natural or man-made standing water sources.
Regardless of a species' preferred breeding habitat, all mosquitoes develop through a full four-stage metamorphosis:
- Egg - tiny, and hatches into larva when exposed to even a little bit of water (usually within 48 hours, once aquatic conditions are adequate).
- Larva - a little "wriggler" that lives and develops in water and molts several times. Most mosquito larvae surface to breathe air.
- Pupa - does not feed, continues developing in the water until adulthood.
- Adult - flies for a short time when emerging, once its body parts have solidified sufficiently.
From egg to adult, the mosquito life cycle usually runs from 8 to 14 days on average before starting over again. The life cycle of some species may last up to a month.
Female mosquitoes can breed and lay eggs only after a blood meal (only females bite humans and animals), and depending on species, lay their eggs either one at a time, or in clusters known as "rafts." They lay their eggs either on the surface of still water, along the shore, in tree voids, or in any other area that might be likely to be flooded from rain, flooding, or irrigation. Mosquito eggs often overwinter, but some species can overwinter as larvae or even adults.
The larval stage begins after a mosquito egg hatches. Mosquito larvae of most species live close to the water's surface because they need air to breathe, and they also feed off of microorganisms on the surface of the water. They can submerge as a protective measure, when threatened, however. These larvae go through four molting stages, known as "instars." The length of the larval stage ranges depend on species, temperature, and availability of food.
Mosquito pupae do not feed, but they still need to breathe air--at this stage mosquitoes are physically active, mobile, and extremely sensitive to light, shadows, and other disturbances. They can quickly "tuck and roll" or "tumble" away from a perceived threat. The pupal stage lasts from one to four days, at which time the pupa skin rips open, and the mosquito adult can surface and rest on the water until it flies away.
Male adult mosquitoes typically emerge from the pupal state first, and will stay near the breeding site to wait for the females. Mating will occur promptly after adults emerge. Male mosquitoes will only live up to a week at most, and feed on plant nectar (only females feed on human and animal blood in addition to plant nectar, in order to nourish their eggs).
Female mosquitoes can locate their victims by carbon dioxide that humans and animals exhale, as well as temperature patterns we produce (mosquitoes are very sensitive to several chemicals, but especially to carbon dioxide). Some female species reproduce only once, while others can lay eggs several times during their life cycles.
How to Get Rid of Mosquitoes
So you've got pesky mosquitoes in your yard, garden, and patio that disrupt your cookouts and summer fun.
Try an effective plant oil-based mosquito control product for spot treatment, like Maggie's Farm Home Bug Spray, Maggie's Farm Flying Insect Killer, or Maggie's Farm Mosquito Fogger. Plants hate mosquitoes and other bugs just as much as you do, and the natural oils they produce to protect themselves are amazingly effective at killing and repelling bugs of all sorts.
For longer term, more thorough coverage, you can treat wider areas of your lawn with effective hose-end plant oil-based pest control products like Maggie's Farm Mosquito & Tick Killer and Maggie's Farm Yard Bug Spray.
An effective plant-oil based DEET-free personal mosquito repellent, like Maggie's Farm Natural Insect Repellent can help you keep mosquitoes away from and off of you and your family members.
Citronella candles and electric mosquito traps can also come in handy in repelling and controlling mosquito populations around your patio and yard. For ornamental water around your yard, you may want to consider using mosquito dunks.
For more on controlling mosquitoes, read the following articles:
Should I Call a Pest Control Professional?
You can do quite a bit yourself to help manage mosquitoes around your home and yard. If you've got an overwhelming mosquito infestation around your home, consider calling a pest control company.
How do you control mosquitoes in your yard? We want to hear your tips and tricks! Leave us a comment below!
For scientifically-tested, effective mosquito control in your home that is friendly to the environment, try Maggie’s Farm pest control products. Our promise is that our plant and mineral-based products are developed by scientists and seasoned pest control professionals to be the most effective.