With over 3,000 mosquito species worldwide and at least 176 found in the United States, these insects play a significant role in various ecosystems. The American Mosquito Control Association identifies the most common and dangerous mosquito genera as Culex, Anopheles, and Aedes.
Culex mosquitoes are known to hibernate during winter and breed in warmer months. They lay rafts of eggs at night on the surface of standing water sources such as ponds, marshes, and artificial containers. Over a two-week period, eggs hatch into larvae, which then develop into pupae before becoming adult mosquitoes.
Adult Culex mosquitoes generally do not travel far from their hatching sites and feed primarily from dusk until a few hours after dark. Although they prefer birds, they are aggressive and persistent biters, targeting humans as well. Female mosquitoes require the protein in blood for egg development and can live up to a month.
The most prevalent Culex species is Culex pipiens, also known as the northern house mosquito. It is the primary carrier of the West Nile virus.
Anopheles mosquitoes, like their Culex counterparts, breed during warmer months. Female mosquitoes deposit their eggs on the water’s surface in groups of 50 to 200. The eggs follow a similar developmental process as Culex mosquitoes.
However, Anopheles larvae lack breathing tubes, necessitating that they lie parallel to the water’s surface and breathe through spiracles on their sides. While Culex mosquitoes thrive in stagnant or polluted water, Anopheles mosquitoes prefer clean water habitats such as marshes, swamps, and rice fields.
Adult female Anopheles mosquitoes typically live for about two weeks, feeding at dusk and dawn. They primarily target humans and cattle for blood meals. Anopheles mosquitoes are known carriers of the parasite responsible for malaria and transmit the parasite through their saliva when biting. More than one million deaths each year are attributed to malaria transmitted by Anopheles mosquitoes.
Aedes mosquitoes, also known as floodwater mosquitoes, lay their eggs on moist soil or in containers that periodically collect rainwater. Preferred breeding sites include tree holes, overflow ditches, and old tires. Aedes mosquito eggs can survive drying and hatch once submerged in water, undergoing a four-stage developmental process similar to other mosquito species.
Aedes mosquitoes predominantly inhabit tropical and subtropical areas and breed in warm weather, although some species can survive in colder environments. Adult Aedes mosquitoes feed day and night, with some species being particularly aggressive and painful biters, such as Aedes vexans, the inland floodwater mosquito.
Two Aedes mosquito species are notable carriers of dangerous diseases. Aedes albopictus, the Asian tiger mosquito, transmits dengue fever and eastern equine encephalitis, while Aedes aegypti, the yellow fever mosquito, transmits dengue and yellow fever.