Mosquitoes kill more people than any other animal, over 700,000 humans worldwide each year.
Appearance, life cycle and habits
The word “mosquito” formed by mosca and diminutive -ito is Spanish for “little fly”. Mosquitoes diverged from other insects about 226 million years ago. Fossils of primitive mosquitoes have been found that are over 90 million years old.
The females of most species have tube-like mouthparts which they use to pierce the skin of the host to extract blood, necessary for reproduction. Thousands of species feed on the blood of various hosts, mainly vertebrates, including mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. This loss of blood is seldom of any importance to the host.
The saliva of the mosquito transmitted to the host with the bite can cause itching and a rash. Many species of mosquitoes inject or ingest disease-causing organisms with the bite, and are thus a vector for the transmission of diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, Chikungunya, West Nile virus, dengue fever, filariasis and the Zika virus.
Mosquitoes have a pair of scaled wings, a pair of halteres, a slender body and long legs. Their length varies, but is rarely greater than 16 mm. A mosquito can fly for 1 to 4 hours continuously up to 10 km in a night. Most species are nocturnal and dawn or evening feeders. During the heat of the day most mosquitos rest in a cool place and wait for the evenings. They may still bite if disturbed.
Useful tips on mosquitoes
- A screened mosquitoe-proof room or house is one of the best and safest ways to sleep and still get ventilation for cooling
- Mosquitoe netting provides the maximum possible personal protection against bitting insects, if properly used and maintained
- When not in use mosquitoe nets can easily be stored away, as they are compact and light weight. Mosquito nets can also provide reliable protection against a wide range of other biting insects.