June 20, 2008
By Sue Benson,
Director of Education, CNHM
Buzzzzzzz! This is a familiar and irritating sound heard around our ears this spring, one we have gotten less used to last year with the extremely dry conditions. As they fly around us, we slap them, shoo them, spray ourselves and in general try everything we can do to avoid them and their bites.
The intense itching and swelling is an allergic response to the mosquito's salivary secretions. Mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide, perspiration, body odor, lactic acid, light and heat to find their hosts. Some fragrances and dark colors may attract some mosquitoes. The most efficient way of reducing numbers of mosquitoes in your yard is to try to remove standing water in discarded tires, bird baths, plant saucers, and even gutters and flat roofs.
Mosquitoes begin life in aquatic environments. The eggs are laid on the surface of the water or sometimes are laid in moist soil that will eventually be flooded. The larvae hatch within about 48 hours. A larva lives in the water and comes to the surface to breath and shed its skin four times, growing larger each time. During the fourth shed the larva changes into a pupa.
The pupal stage is spent resting; they do not feed but are capable of movement, responding to light changes, moving with a flip of their tails towards the bottom or protective areas. Some mosquito species spend about two days as a pupa in the summer, and the skin splits, allowing the adult mosquito to emerge.
There are many kinds of mosquitoes, preferring different habitat, behavior and source of blood. It takes about two weeks after water is available for adults to appear, and more than 60 percent of these adults will migrate up to 20 miles from their breeding habitat. Only the female mosquitoes are blood sucking (the blood meal obtains the protein necessary for the development of her eggs) while the males feed on nectar and other plant juices. In the summer they can sometimes go through their entire life cycle in one week. Adult females will live for three to six weeks and can take several blood meals during this time. Temperatures below 50 degrees F prevent mosquitoes from flying.
Brought to you by the Cable Natural History Museum. For 40 years, the Museum has served as a guide and mentor to generations of visitors and residents interested in learning to better appreciate and care for the extraordinary natural resources of the region. They invite you to visit their facility in Cable on 43570 Kavanaugh Street or at the website at www.cablemuseum.org to learn more about their exhibits and programs.