On a recent camping trip, as mosquitoes were eating us alive, our group of campers started to wonder if there was a reason for the existence of mosquitoes other than to make our lives miserable.
Mosquitoes are survivors, having been around for 100 million years and adapting to climates from the arctic to the equator.
Adult mosquitoes feed on flower nectar, plant juices, and decaying matter, but in addition, most females need blood meals in order to produce eggs.
The 3,000 or more mosquito species have different preferences for bloodhosts, which could include frogs, mammals, or birds. They locate their bloodhosts using scent, sight, and detecting their heat.
Female mosquitoes lay eggs in or around standing water such as puddles, lakes, ditches, or any container of stagnant water.
They lay 100-300 eggs at a time, which hatch within 24-48 hours. In their short lifespan, the females average 1000-3000 offspring.
There are four stages in mosquito development, which occur over a span of 5-14 days, depending on the species. The first three stages, egg, larva, and pupa, occur in water.
During the last stage, the adult stage, mosquitoes usually stay within a one-mile range of their breeding site. Adult mosquitoes live about four to eight weeks with the females having a longer life span than the males.
Female mosquitoes transmit diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, encephalitis, and West Nile virus as they drink blood from their bloodhosts. The also transmit heartworms to cats and dogs.
So now, we are back to our original question, about whether or not there is a reason for the existence of mosquitoes other than to make our lives miserable.
It seems mosquitoes do provide some useful services. As they feed on nectar, mosquitoes help pollinate smaller flowers.
Mosquitoes are a food source for dragonflies. Some fish such as bluegill, bass, and catfish eat mosquito larvae. Several species of birds also eat mosquitoes.
As humans, we find mosquitoes to be an annoyance, but they are useful to some nonhuman living things such as plants and insect eating animals.