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Mosquito Biology

Mosquitoes are insects belonging to the order Diptera, the True Flies. Like all True Flies, they have two wings, but unlike other flies, their wings have scales and their mouth parts (in female mosquitoes) form a long piercing-sucking proboscis. Males differ from females by having feathery antennae and mouth parts not suitable for piercing skin. Nectar is the principal food source for male mosquitoes.

There are over 2500 different species of mosquitoes throughout the world, of which 150 species occur in the United States, 73 species occur in Florida and 47 species occur in Leon County. Each of the species has a Latin scientific name, such as Aedes albopictus. Aedes is the "generic" name of a group of closely related mosquitoes and albopictus is the "species" name which represents a group of individuals that are similar in structure and physiology and capable of interbreeding.

Life Cycle

The mosquito goes through four separate and distinct stages of its life cycle: Egg, Larva, Pupa, and Adult. Each of these stages can be easily recognized by its special appearance.

Egg

Some mosquitoes lay their eggs on the surface of the water one at a time or stuck together in rafts of 200 or more. Other mosquitoes lay their eggs on damp soil that will be flooded by water. Most eggs hatch into larvae within 48 hours. Water is a necessary part of their habitat.

Larva

The larva (larvae - plural) lives in the water and comes to the surface to breathe. Larvae shed (molt) their skins four times, growing larger after each molting. Most larvae have siphon tubes for breathing and hang from the water surface. The larvae feed on microorganisms and organic matter in the water. Mosquito larvae, commonly called "wigglers", must live in water from 7 to 14 days depending on water temperature. Also, some species have naturally adapted to go through their entire life cycle in as little as four days. On the fourth molt the larva changes into a pupa.

Pupa

The pupal stage is a resting, non-feeding stage. This is the time the mosquito turns into an adult. It takes about two days before the adult is fully developed. When development is complete, the pupal skin splits and the mosquito emerges as an adult. The pupa does not eat.

Adult

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. The wings have to spread out and dry properly before it can fly.

Only female mosquitoes bite animals and require a blood meal. Male mosquitoes do not bite, but feed on the nectar of flowers.

Habitats

Mosquito habitats vary widely but all have one thing in common. They all require water to for the larval and pupal stages of the mosquito's life cycle. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in a wide range of areas associated with water. Some may lay them in tin cans, barrels, horse troughs, ornamental ponds, swimming pools, puddles, creeks, ditches, or marshy areas. Others will lay them on damp soil where the eggs will hatch only when flooded with water. Mosquitoes prefer a habitat that is sheltered from the wind by grass and weeds.

Adult mosquitoes prefer to rest in areas that are damp and provide protection. These may include wooded areas, bushes, underneath houses and decks, tall grass and etc.

Below are some videos showing common mosquito habitats found in Leon County.

Species

Listed below are the 49 identified mosquito species in Leon County. Species marked with an asterisk (*) have been reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to potentially carry West Nile Virus. Keep scrolling to learn more about the most common species.

  • Aedes aegypti
  • Aedes albopictus*
  • Aedes cinereus
  • Aedes vexans*
    Anopheles barberi*
  • Anopheles crucians*
  • Anopheles diluvialis*
  • nopheles maverlis
  • Anopheles perplexans
  • Anopheles punctipennis*
  • Anopheles quadrimaculatus*
  • Anopheles smaragdinus
  • Anopheles walkeri*
  • Coquillettidia peturbins*
  • Culex erraticus*
  • Culex nigripalpus*
  • Culex peccator
  • Culex pilosus
  • Culex quinquefasciatus*
  • Culex restuans*
  • Culex salinarius*
  • Culex tarsalis*
  • Culex territans*
  • Culiseta inornata
  • Culiseta melanura*
  • Ochlerotatus (Aedes) atlanticus*
  • Ochlerotatus (Aedes) canadensis*
  • Ochlerotatus (Aedes) dupreei*
  • Ochlerotatus (Aedes) fulvus pallens*
  • Ochlerotatus (Aedes) hendersoni
  • Ochlerotatus (Aedes) infirmatus*
  • Ochlerotatus (Aedes) mitchellae
  • Ochlerotatus (Aedes) sollicitans*
  • Ochlerotatus (Aedes) sticticus*
  • Ochlerotatus (Aedes) taeniorhynchus*
  • Ochlerotatus (Aedes) triseriatus*
  • Orthopodomyia signifera*
  • Psorophora ciliata*
  • Psorophora columbiae*
  • Psorophora cyanescens
  • Psorophora discolor
  • Psorophora ferox*
  • Psorophora horrida
  • Psorophora howardii*
  • Psorophora mathesoni
  • Toxorhynchites rutilus rutilus
  • Toxorhynchites rutilus septentrionalis
  • Uranotaenia lowii
  • Uranotaenia sapphirina*

Common Species Info

Aedes albopictus "Asian Tiger Mosquito"

The Asian tiger mosquito is a container-inhabiting species which lays its eggs in any water-containing receptacle in urban, suburban, rural and forested areas. Its primary habitats are artificial containers such as tires, flower pots, cemetery urns/vases, buckets, tin cans, rain gutters, ornamental ponds, drums, even the finger holes of an abandoned bowling ball have been reported. Larvae can also be found in natural containers such as tree holes, bamboo pots, and leaf axils. Ae. albopictus is a very aggressive daytime biter with peaks generally occurring during the early morning and late afternoon. Its major means of dispersal is through the transport of used and waste tires. The movement of other water-holding containers could also play a role in expanding its range.

Aedes vexans

Aedes vexans can be found in many different habitats. Among these are: open rain pools, tire ruts, stormwater management facilities (this includes detention, retention and infiltration basins), dredge spoil sites, salt marsh impoundments, ditches, areas in which streams or creeks have flooded over their banks, flooded woodlands, around the edges of semi-permanent swamps and bogs that are subject to some drying down, and woodland pools or any type of temporary rain pool. Larvae do not seem to exhibit a marked preference for either sunlight or shade within these habitats. Ae. vexans is a serious nuisance pest. Females will feed in shady places during the day; however, they are very active at dusk and vigorously seek blood meals at this time.

Anopheles crucians

Anopheles crucians larvae are found in margins of lakes, ponds, swamps and semipermanent and permanent pools associated with aquatic vegetation. This mosquito prefers acid water in the larval habitat. It is typically the dominant Anopheles in the southern half of the state. Females bite at night and during the day in the woods. They also enter houses.

Anopheles quadrimaculatus

This mosquito was the most important vector of malaria in the southeastern United States and today is a major host of the nematode that causes dog heartworm. Anopheles quadrimaculatus generally breeds in permanent-water swamps that have filtered sunlight and established surface vegetation or emergent vegetation. Larvae are surface feeders that ingest microorganisms and detritus. They associate themselves with aquatic vegetation to avoid predation. They also change color to mimic that of their breeding habitat. Females typically fly less than 1 mile for a blood meal.

Coquillettidia perturbans

This large, black-and-white mosquito is a severe pest in inland Florida. It breeds in established, permanent freshwater marshes containing emergent vegetation where there is a layer of detritus on the marsh bottom. The eggs are laid in a raft on the water surface, and the immature forms attach to the roots of the emergent plants. This aggressive mosquito is active for short periods at dusk and commonly flies three to five miles, often much farther. Females bite both humans and birds. This species is an important vector of eastern encephalitis to humans throughout the eastern United States, wherever it is associated with Culiseta melanura.

Culex erraticus

This small mosquito is common in Leon County. The larvae are found in permanent grassy ponds and swamps, often associated with duckweed, upon which the female lays her eggs. Females feed on birds and humans at dusk and during the day.

Culex nigripalpus

Culex nigripalpus larvae often develop in the rich organic mixture found in shallow flooded ditches. Larval development time is temperature dependent, and is most rapid in midsummer when the water temperature in the ditches may exceed 100 degrees F. Females are extremely opportunistic in their choice of a host, feeding on vertebrates ranging from tree frogs to humans. Females seek hosts and blood feed mainly during the crepuscular periods before sunrise and after sunset. Culex nigripalpus is the most important disease vector in Florida where it is the predominant vector of St. Louis Encephalitis (SLE) virus and a minor vector of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) virus.

Culex quinquefasciatus "House Mosquito"

Culex quinquefasciatus mosquitoes are common in urban and suburban communities as well as on rural premises. They readily breed in storm sewer catch basins, clean and polluted ground pools, ditches, animal waste lagoons, effluent from sewage treatment plants, and other sites that are slightly to very eutrophic or polluted with organic wastes. Development from egg to adult is temperature dependent- requiring 8 to 12 days in summer. After blood-feeding, females may return to the same or nearby larval habitats to oviposit and are often considered non-migratory mosquitoes. However, females may travel considerable distances from resting sites to search for blood hosts, and marked females have been shown to travel up to one half mile in a single night.

Culex restuans

Culex restuans utilizes an exceptionally wide range of larval habitats. The water used by this species can vary from nearly clear to grossly polluted. A partial list of larval habitats includes: temporary ground water, the edge of grassy swampland, sphagnum bogs, road side ditches, tire ruts, hoof prints, discarded buckets, tires, catch basins, sewage effluent and septic seepage. Culex restuans regularly colonizes temporary ground pools that remain flooded after they have produced broods of floodwater Aedes. Culex restuans larvae remain in suitable habitats throughout the breeding season, usually mixed with one or more associate species.

Culiseta melanura

This medium-sized mosquito breeds in permanent wooded swamps. The egg raft is irregularly rounded and usually is laid on the water surface near the roots of trees within swamps with muck-peat soils. The larvae prefer the cavities within the root system of the tree. This species feeds almost exclusively on birds. Cs. melanura is an indicator species for eastern encephalitis. Eastern encephalitis can occur only where this species is present. It is also the primary vector among birds.

Ochlerotatus (Aedes) atlanticus

This common mosquito breeds in shaded woodland pools and is a severe biter during the day in and near woods. The adults are indistinguishable from Ae. tormentor and are often associated with them, but occur in much larger numbers.

Ochlerotatus (Aedes) canadensis

This common, "golden-brown" mosquito breeds principally in woodland pools where it can be a pest to humans during the spring.

Ochlerotatus (Aedes) fulvus pallens

This rare, large, yellow mosquito is unmistakable. It breeds in temporary woodland pools and the adults can be fierce biters in the woods.

Ochlerotatus (Aedes) infirmatus

This Aedes is mostly a woodland mosquito that is a fierce biter even during the daytime in or near woods. The species breeds in temporary woodlands or open grassy pools. They can be a serious pest, even entering houses when abundant.

Ochlerotatus (Aedes) triseriatus "Tree Hole Mosquito"

This "silver-sided" mosquito breeds primarily in tree holes but it will also use artificial containers containing organic debris. The species is common in woodlands, where it can be a fierce daytime biter.

Psorophora ciliata "Shaggy-Legged Gallinipper Mosquito"

This very large mosquito has very shaggy legs and breeds in rain pools, grassy ditches and depressions statewide. The larvae are predaceous on other mosquitoes. The adults are severe biters, often alarming people because of their large size. This species is very similar to Ps. howardii.

Psorophora columbiae "Florida Glades Mosquito"

This black mosquito, above average in size, breeds in a variety of temporary water situations including woodland pools, pastures and grassy ditches. The females can appear in enormous clouds and be a major pest at night up to five miles or so from the breeding site. The adults are not long-lived so the problem abates rapidly.

Psorophora ferox "White-Footed Mosquito"

This common, blue-black, medium sized mosquito is easily recognized by its white "feet." It breeds in woodland pools and adjacent ditches. They can be a nuisance to humans and animals in the woods, day or night.

Psorophora howardii "Howard's Gallinipper Mosquito"

This species is similar to Ps. ciliata in most respects. This very large mosquito has shaggy legs and breeds in rain pools, grassy ditches and depressions statewide. The larvae are predaceous on other mosquitoes and the adults are severe biters, which can alarm people due to their large size. They are known to be long-distance fliers.

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2023 Annual Report Video 4:12
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