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Mosquitoes are insects that belong to the order Diptera, the True Flies. Mosquitoes differ from other flies in that mosquito wings have scales. Female mosquitoes' mouthparts form a long antennae (proboscis) for piercing and sucking. Males differ from females by having feathery antennae and mouthparts not suitable for piercing skin. Blood-feeding females usually must ingest a blood meal in order to develop eggs. Saliva injected by females while engorging on blood causes itching. Males, as well as females, sip nectar, honeydew and fruit juices. There are over 2500 different species of mosquitoes throughout the world; about 200 species occur in the United States with about 55 species of mosquitoes occurring in Texas and 77 species in Florida.

The Name "Mosquito"
"Mosquito" is a Spanish word meaning "little fly". The Spanish originally called mosquitoes "musketas," and native Hispanic Americans called them "zancudos" meaning "long-legged". The two words apparently combined to form "mosquito" in Spanish North America and dates back to the late 1500's.
What is the correct plural form of the word mosquito? In Spanish it would be "mosquitos," but in English "mosquitoes" (with the "e") is correct.
Mosquitoes can be an annoying pest or a very serious problem. They interfere with work and spoil hours of leisure time. Their attacks on farm animals can cause sickness and decreased production. We best know mosquitoes for their role in the transmission of diseases, such as malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever, encephalitis and West Nile virus. Of these, malaria is by far the most important. According to recent data released by the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control, mosquitoes infect a minimum of 500 MILLION people with the disease each year, and more than two million -- mostly children in sub-Saharan Africa -- die of it.

The mosquito goes through four separate and distinct stages of its life cycle: Egg, Larva, Pupa, and Adult. Each stage is easily recognized by its special appearance. The egg, larva and pupa stages depend on temperature and species characteristics to determine how long they take for development.



  Eggs are laid one at a time or more commonly attached together to form "rafts" where they float on the surface of the water. The more commonly known Culex species, lays its eggs together in rafts of up to 200 eggs or more. Other species lay their eggs singly. Some lay their eggs on the surface of the water while others lay their eggs on damp soil later to be flooded by water. Most eggs hatch into larvae within 48 hours. Water is necessary to their habitat.

  Once hatched, the larva (plural - larvae) lives in the water and comes to the surface to breathe. Most larvae hang upside down from the surface of the water and use siphon tubes for breathing while some attach to plants for oxygen. Larvae shed their skins, referred to as molting, four times during this stage and grow larger after each molt. Larvae depend on microorganisms and organic matter in the water for a food sources. It is during the fourth molt that the larva transforms into a pupa. Larvae live in water from 4 to 14 days depending on water temperature.

  The pupal stage is a resting, non-feeding developmental stage. During this stage, pupae are mobile and respond to changes in light. They move by flipping or wagging their tails to move towards protected areas. This is the stage in which the mosquito changes into an adult. This process is similar to a caterpillar developing into an adult butterfly while in the cocoon. This takes about two days for the Culex species. The adult mosquito emerges after development is complete. Pupae may live in water 1 to 10 days depending on species and water temperature.
Asian Tiger

  The newly emerged adult rests on the surface of the water for a short time to allow itself to dry and all its body parts to harden. It cannot fly unless its wings are spread and dried properly. Blood feeding and mating will not occur until a couple of days after it has emerged. Mating usually occurs near the emergence site, and the male dies shortly after.

  Only female mosquitoes require a blood meal (protein) and bite animals - warm or cold blooded - and birds. Male mosquitoes do not bite, but feed on the nectar of flowers or other sources of liquid carbohydrates. Both male and female mosquitoes are primarily nectar feeders. Horses, cattle, smaller mammals and/or birds are the preferred blood sources for those female mosquitoes that are capable of blood feeding; humans are secondary. Some adult mosquitoes may live a few weeks or longer.
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