The life cycle of a mosquito takes place in four distinct stages, progressing from egg to larva, pupa, and finally, adulthood. Each stage has specific characteristics and behaviors, contributing to the mosquito’s overall development and ability to survive in various environments.
During their lifespan, female mosquitoes lay eggs approximately every third day, usually in clusters of 100 to 300. The eggs are deposited either as “rafts” floating on the surface of standing water or on the ground in areas that regularly flood. Mosquitoes can lay eggs in water as shallow as one inch. Initially white when laid, the eggs cannot hatch unless they are in water, typically for two to three days. Temperature, humidity, and water quality can influence the hatching process and the number of viable eggs produced.
Upon hatching, mosquito larvae, also known as “wigglers,” emerge. They are called wigglers due to their swimming motion. Most of the time, they hang from the surface of the water, breathing through tubes called siphons. The wigglers feed on organic matter in the water, such as microorganisms and detritus. They undergo four molts over approximately one week, increasing in size with each molt before developing into pupae. Larvae are the most vulnerable stage, susceptible to predation, oils that block their breathing, or bacteria that poison them.
The pupal stage, often referred to as “tumblers,” is named for the way they tumble to the deepest part of the water when threatened by predators. Pupae have a comma-like shape, partially encased in cocoons, with the head at one end and tiny flippers at the other. Unlike larvae, pupae do not feed while developing. They still breathe through tubes, similar to the larval stage. The pupal stage lasts about four days, after which the adult mosquito emerges.
Newly emerged adult mosquitoes climb out of the water to rest and wait for their bodies to dry out. Males take a day or two to fully develop their reproductive organs before seeking out a female, locating her by the sound of her wingbeats. After mating, males live for about three to five days, feeding on fruit and plant nectar. Females typically mate once but continue laying eggs after every blood meal, providing nutrients for egg production. Under optimal conditions, female mosquitoes can live up to a month or two.