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Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are a member of the insect family and belong to the order Diptera. They vary in size by species, but generally are about 1/2 inch in length. They are perhaps best known because the female of the species sucks the blood of humans and other animals for sustenance. The male spends his time living on the juices of plants.

mosquito diagram
Like other insects, the mosquito has a head thorax and abdomen. However, in the mosquito the mouth parts extending from the head have become specialized. Mosquitoes do not have stingers, but insert part of their mouth beneath the skin of their victims. They insert their saliva beneath the skin to prevent coagulation. Often this insertion of saliva carries germs and diseases that may be quite harmful to humans. Certain species of mosquito are known to be carriers of malaria, yellow fever, West Nile virus, and encephalitis.

Because of their ability to carry diseases it is important for humans to control their numbers. In the past, DDT was a major chemical used to keep down mosquito populations. Now, mosquitoes run rampant in many areas of Africa causing millions of deaths every year because the governments there fear that use of DDT may cause cancer in the long term. However, safer insect control is being developed, but application is much more expensive than DDT. This has created a huge moral dilemma in third world countries that is yet to be resolved.

Most mosquitoes lay their eggs in stagnant water, which means that control can be accomplished through eliminating unhealthy wetlands. Mosquitoes go through four life stages, egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The larval and pupal stages are spent in the water and are often eaten by fish and amphibious animals. The adult stage is spent mating and looking for food. Most mosquitoes go through several life cycles per year but some are on a yearly cycle.

Over-wintering in a sheltered spot is important for mosquito survival. Many spend the winter in the egg stage. While in others, the adult fertilized female will spend the cold months in a cool damp location such as cellars, discarded tires, or even rain gutters. The biting females are attracted to humans and other animals by various means, including carbon dioxide, body heat, body odors and light. Effective repellents have been developed and can be acquired in many different shops. Various attractants and killing devices are made to clear recreational areas for pest free use by people and their pets.

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Interesting Links: Mosquito Woodkits, Asparagus Beetle.

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W.J. Rayment


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