Mosquitoes are insects belonging to the order Diptera, the True Flies.
Like all True Flies, they have two wings, but unlike other flies, their wings have scales and their mouthparts (in female mosquitoes) form a long piercing-sucking proboscis. Males differ from females by having feathery antennae and mouthparts not suitable for piercing skin. Nectar is their principal food source.
There are over 2500 different species of mosquitoes throughout the world, of which 150 species occur in the United States. Each of the species has a Latinized scientific name, such as Culex tarsalis. Culex is the "generic" name of a group of closely related mosquitoes and tarsalis is the "species" name which represents a group of indiviuals that are similar in structure and physiology and capable of interbreeding. These names are used in a descriptive manner so that the name tells something about this particular mosquito. Some species have what are called "common names" as well as scientific names, such as Aedes sollicitans, the "Black salt marsh mosquito."
Mosquito Life Cycle:
The mosquito goes through four separate and distinct stages of its life cycle: Egg, Larva, Pupa, and Adult. Each of these stages can be easily recognized by their special appearance.
Egg: Eggs are laid one at a time and they float on the surface of the water. In the case of Culex and Culiseta species, the eggs are stuck together in rafts of a hundred or more eggs. Anopheles and Aedes species do not make egg rafts but lay their eggs separately. Culex, Culiseta, and Anopheles lay their eggs on water while Aedes lay their eggs on damp soil that will be flooded by water. Most eggs hatch into larvae within 48 hours.
Larva: The larva (larvae - plural) live in the water and come to the surface to breathe. They shed (molt) their skin four times, growing larger after each molting. Most larvae have siphon tubes for breathing and hang from the water surface. Anopheles larvae do not have a siphon and lay parallel to the water surface to get a supply of oxygen through a breathing opening. The larvae feed on micro-organisms and organic matter in the water. On the fourth molt the larva changes into a pupa.
Pupa: The pupal stage is a resting, non-feeding stage. This is the time the mosquito turns into an adult. It takes about two days before the adult is fully developed. When development is complete, the pupal skin splits and the mosquito emerges as an adult.
Adult: The newly emerged adult rests on the surface of the water for a short time to allow itself to dry and all its body parts to harden. The wings have to spread out and dry properly before it can fly.
The egg, larvae and pupae stages depend on temperature and species characteristics as to how long they take for development. For instance, Culex tarsalis , a common California, USA mosquito, might go through its life cycle in 14 days at 70 F and take only 10 days at 80 F. Also, some species have naturally adapted to go through their entire life cycle in as little as four days or as long as one month.
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