Are you looking to learn what mosquitoes eat and what to do about it?
Well then, you’re in the right place!
In this guide you’ll learn:
- The Life Cycle of Mosquitoes
- What Mosquitoes Eat at Each Stage
- Mosquito Feeding Habits During the Year
- What Difference Does It Make?
Ed has been working in the pest control industry for years helping 1,000's of homeowners navigate the world of insect and rodent management. He manages Pest Strategies now helping homeowners around the world!
Table of Contents
The question, “What do mosquitoes eat?” isn’t as easy to answer as you might think. The only accurate answer is, it depends. It depends on what stage of their life cycle they’re in. It depends on whether they’re male or female. And, it depends on the birds.
That’s right, it depends on those little monsters from the Alfred Hitchcock movie, The Birds. The birds will determine whether or not you get bitten by mosquitoes and how often.
There’s a lot of information to cover, so let’s get started!
Read Also: What are the top mosquito repellents?
That Whining Buzz in Your Ear
The incredibly annoying high-pitched whine of flying mosquitoes has been with us a long time. If you believe the Bible, mosquitoes have been with us for thousands of years since the Garden of Eden. If you believe Jurassic Park, they’ve been with us for over 60 million years.
Either way, they never get less annoying. Either way, they keep on biting us and ruining our summer cookout on the back porch or patio. Either way, we have to keep spending more money than we want to on citronella candles, repellents, and pesticides to keep the little pests away from us.
All of which begs the question, do they eat anything besides us? Or our blood anyway? Well yes, yes they do. They don’t always eat the same thing though. Their diet changes throughout their life cycle, so why don’t we take a few moments to examine that cycle before moving on.
The Life Cycle of Mosquitoes
Mosquitoes have four stages in their life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.
Adult females lay up to 200 tiny eggs at a time in a “raft”, almost always in stale or stagnant water. Slowly moving water won’t bother them too much but they prefer stagnant ponds or puddles of water that aren’t moving at all.
If the water is moving very fast their eggs won’t be warm enough because swiftly moving water tends to be colder than slowly moving or motionless water. The sun heats up stagnant water much faster than it can heat up running water, and the eggs need warm in order to hatch. Running water can also carry the egg sack to predators and fish who will eat it.
Once the young hatch from their eggs they are called larva. They are aquatic but they don’t have fins so they swim by wiggling and thrashing around, giving them their common name; wigglers.
Mosquito larva live in the water but they need air to breathe. That means they have to surface on a regular basis, another reason they require stagnant water. Running water has too many currents in it that could drag the wigglers under and drown them.
The larva go through four growth stages, called instars. Each instar is larger than the previous one.
The pupa or pupae stage is often called the tumbler stage because they “swim” by tumbling through the water to avoid predators. To the untrained eye, a mosquito pupa resembles a tiny shrimp. They still require stagnant water to live in and air to breathe.
7-10 days after an egg is laid, it has hatched, gone through all the stages and become a full-grown adult mosquito. At that point they leave the water behind and take up an aerial life, flying around and making a nuisance of themselves.
What do adult mosquitoes eat?
Once the adults hatch, they need sugars only, or liquids that are high in sugars. They get the sugar they need by drinking nectar and other plant juices.
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What Do Mosquitoes Eat At Each Stage of Life?
As mentioned earlier, a mosquito’s diet changes at each point in their life cycle. What they eat at an early stage, they can’t eat or live on during a later stage.
What Do Mosquito Eggs Eat?
The young who are developing inside the eggs don’t eat at all. They get all their nutrition from the yolk and other material inside the egg. All of that nutrition had to be supplied by the female who formed the eggs. This is important for reasons we’ll cover in a little bit. For now though, the developing young inside the eggs don’t eat at all.
What Does Mosquito Larva Eat?
The wiggling larva, on the other hand, does need to eat. They eat the algae, fungus, and bacteria that only grow in motionless, stagnant water. They can’t ingest anything else. If the algae, bacteria, and fungus are gone or missing because of too many currents in the water, the larva will starve.
What Does Mosquito Pupa Eat?
And now they don’t. In the pupa stage, they don’t need to eat. During this stage, the larva are undergoing a metamorphosis into their adult form. They tumble erratically through the water to avoid being eaten by predators but that’s about the extent of their activity.
What Do Adult Mosquitoes Eat?
Once the adults hatch, they need sugars only, or liquids that are high in sugars. They get the sugar they need by drinking nectar and other plant juices. The males only live about a week or so. Once they mate with the female, their purpose in life is over and they die.
After mating, the female suddenly needs a tremendous amount of protein to create her eggs. She gets that blood by drinking the blood of birds, animals, and people. She gets the blood by using her proboscis, an external feeding structure, to penetrate the skin of a host then inserting a tube to drink the host’s blood. The proboscis is actually a very complex structure.
What Are Mosquito Feeding Habits During the Year
All of this is bad enough, but although female mosquitoes only live for five to six weeks, the species is active throughout the whole year. In cold climates, they die off during the winter but in warmer climates, such as the southern part of the United States, they can be found any time of the year. Their fast life cycle ensures they can hatch, mature, and start flying around even in the winter in the northern areas during a warm spell.
Researchers discovered that mosquitoes’ preferred hosts for feeding change dramatically during the year. Studies have revealed that mosquitoes will feed on American robins before they’ll feed on anything else.
Further studies revealed that it’s not birds in general that mosquitoes want to feed on, it is American Robins in particular. During the year, when the robin population was low but the overall bird population remained high, mosquitoes didn’t shift to feeding on another species of birds. Instead, they shifted to feeding on animals and humans.
At this point, scientists still aren’t sure why mosquitoes have such a marked preference for American robins over all other birds, and why they switch to animals and humans when there aren’t any robins, but the pattern is clear. If you live in an area with an abundance of robins, your chances of being bitten by mosquitoes are substantially reduced. When the robins migrate, your chances of being bitten skyrocket.
Should I Care If Mosquitoes Bite Me?
You might be asking, “So what? Why should I care?” It’s a legitimate question.
You should care because when mosquitoes bite you to feed on your blood like a miniature Dracula, they’re not just taking something from you, they’re giving you something back in return; mainly sickness and disease.
Mosquitoes are known carriers for a wide range of diseases, many of them deadly. Some of them are Chikungunya virus, dengue, malaria, West Nile virus, and Zika virus. Although some of them are treatable, there are others, such as dengue, that don’t have any treatment at all except to keep the patient properly hydrated and hope they pull through.
Not a very comforting thought, is it?
Some Preventative Actions Against Mosquitoes
Male and female mosquitoes both need sugar from nectar and other plant liquids. If you put out sugar water for hummingbirds, guess who else you’re feeding? If you have lots of flowering plants in your yard, the mosquitoes are going to find all the nectar they need. If you take away either or both of those things, you’re going to turn your yard into an empty cupboard as far as they are concerned.
If mosquitoes can’t find the sugar they need around your house, they’ll be more likely to search somewhere else to find it, thus lowering your chances of being bitten. If you have robins in your area, put out some bird seed around the outer edges of your property. It will draw the robins away from your house and the mosquitoes with them.
Invest in some citronella candles and torches around your house, get rid of any stagnant water, and put some mosquito dunks in any bird baths you have. It won’t hurt the birds but it will kill any mosquito larva or pupa in the water.
Some Final Thoughts On Mosquito Diets
Mosquitoes have been a nuisance and a danger since the beginning of time, but modern science has more answers and more solutions to the problem than ever before. Knowledge is power and we’ve just given you a lot of it. Use it.