Mosquitoes are small flies that look a lot like their cousins in the fly family, the crane flies and midges. Female mosquitoes, however, drink blood from vertebrate animals.
Adults have one pair of transparent wings; upon close inspection, you can see a fringe of hairs and scales along the edges and veins of the wings. The legs are long, and there is a long proboscis (pro-BAH-siss) that is used like a straw for drinking. The antennae are featherlike in males.
Larvae, called “wrigglers,” are aquatic, with a large head and thorax and narrow, wormlike abdomen; they typically hang just below the water surface, breathing air through tubes at the end of the abdomen. When disturbed, they wriggle downward.
Pupae, called “tumblers,” are curled like a comma and also hang just under the water surface, breathing through air tubes.
Habitat and Conservation
Mosquitoes plague us with their whines and itchy bites as well as with the serious and life-threatening diseases they transmit to humans and other animals. Their economic impact is staggering.
Historically, the avoidance of “malarial” swamps determined where towns did or didn’t develop. It is one reason wealthy people (who could pay for higher-priced land) have historically preferred building their homes on high land, away from water, flooding, and still, sultry air. Look at the older parts of a city, and notice how most of the big mansions are built on hilltops.
Although some mosquitoes prey on other mosquitoes, most are parasites.
Some disease-causing microorganisms need mosquitoes to complete their life cycle.
Mosquitoes are an important part of aquatic and land food chains. The larvae are an important food for many aquatic animals, including fish, and birds and other insects devour mosquitoes on the wing.