Culicidae: Wikis


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Fossil range: 79–0 Ma
A female mosquito Culiseta longiareolata
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Diptera
Suborder: Nematocera
Infraorder: Culicomorpha
Superfamily: Culicoidea
Family: Culicidae
Meigen, 1830 [1]


41 genera

Mosquito and mosquita (from the Spanish meaning little fly[2]) is a common insect in the family Culicidae (from the Latin culex meaning midge or gnat[3]). Mosquitoes resemble crane flies (family Tipulidae) and chironomid flies (family Chironomidae), with which they are sometimes confused by the casual observer.

Mosquitoes go through four stages in their life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult or imago. Adult females lay their eggs in water, which can be a salt-marsh, a lake, a puddle, a natural reservoir on a plant, or an artificial water container such as a plastic bucket. The first three stages are aquatic and last 5–14 days, depending on the species and the ambient temperature; eggs hatch to become larvae, then pupae. The adult mosquito emerges from the pupa as it floats at the water surface. Adult females can live up to a month — more in captivity — but most probably do not live more than 1–2 weeks in nature.

Mosquitoes have mouthparts which are adapted for piercing the skin of plants and animals. They typically feed on nectar and plant juices. In some species, the female needs to obtain nutrients from a "blood meal" before she can produce eggs.

There are about 3,500 species of mosquitoes found throughout the world. In some species of mosquito, the females feed on humans, and are therefore vectors for a number of infectious diseases affecting millions of people per year.[4][5]




Anopheles larva from southern Germany, about 8 mm long

Mosquito larvae have a well-developed head with mouth brushes used for feeding, a large thorax with no legs and a segmented abdomen.

Larvae breathe through spiracles located on the eighth abdominal segment, or through a siphon, and therefore must come to the surface frequently. The larvae spend most of their time feeding on algae, bacteria, and other micro-organisms in the surface microlayer. They dive below the surface only when disturbed. Larvae swim either through propulsion with the mouth brushes, or by jerky movements of the entire body, giving them the common name of "wigglers" or "wrigglers".

Larvae develop through four stages, or instars, after which they metamorphose into pupae. At the end of each instar, the larvae molt, shedding their exoskeleton, or skin, to allow for further growth.


The pupa is comma-shaped, as in Anopheles when viewed from the side, and is commonly called a "tumbler". The head and thorax are merged into a cephalothorax with the abdomen curving around underneath. As with the larvae, pupae must come to the surface frequently to breathe, which they do through a pair of respiratory trumpets on the cephalothorax. However, pupae do not feed during this stage. After a few days, the pupa rises to the water surface, the dorsal surface of the cephalothorax splits and the adult mosquito emerges.The pupa is less active than larvae.


Adults of the yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti, a typical member of the subfamily Culicinae. The male on the left, females on the right. Note the bushy antennae and longer palps in the male.

The duration from egg to adult varies considerably among species and is strongly influenced by ambient temperature. Mosquitoes can develop from egg to adult in as little as five days but usually take 10–14 days in tropical conditions. The variation of the body size in adult mosquitoes depends on the density of the larval population and food supply within the breeding water. Adult flying mosquitoes frequently rest in a tunnel that they build right below the roots of the grass.

Adult mosquitoes usually mate within a few days after emerging from the pupal stage. In most species, the males form large swarms, usually around dusk, and the females fly into the swarms to mate.

Males live for about a week, feeding on nectar and other sources of sugar. Females will also feed on sugar sources for energy but usually require a blood meal for the development of eggs. After obtaining a full blood meal, the female will rest for a few days while the blood is digested and eggs are developed. This process depends on the temperature but usually takes 2–3 days in tropical conditions. Once the eggs are fully developed, the female lays them and resumes host seeking.

The cycle repeats itself until the female dies. While females can live longer than a month in captivity, most do not live longer than 1–2 weeks in nature. Their lifespan depends on temperature, humidity, and also their ability to successfully obtain a blood meal while avoiding host defenses.

Length of the adult varies but is rarely greater than 16 mm (0.6 in)[6], and weight up to 2.5 mg (0.04 grain). All mosquitoes have slender bodies with three sections: head, thorax and abdomen.

The head is specialized for acquiring sensory information and for feeding. The head contains the eyes and a pair of long, many-segmented antennae. The antennae are important for detecting host odors as well as odors of breeding sites where females lay eggs. In all mosquito species, the antennae of the males in comparison to the females are noticeably bushier and contain auditory receptors to detect the characteristic whine of the female. The compound eyes are distinctly separated from one another. Their larvae only possess a pit-eye ocellus. The compound eyes of adults develop in a separate region of the head.[7] New ommatidia are added in semicircular rows at the rear of the eye; during the first phase of growth, this leads to individual ommatidia being square, but later in development they become hexagonal. The hexagonal pattern will only become visible when the carapace of the stage with square eyes is molted.[7] The head also has an elongated, forward-projecting "stinger-like" proboscis used for feeding, and two sensory palps. The maxillary palps of the males are longer than their proboscis whereas the females’ maxillary palps are much shorter. (This is typical for representatives of subfamilies.) As with many members of the mosquito family, the female is equipped with an elongated proboscis that she uses to collect blood to feed her eggs.

The thorax is specialized for locomotion. Three pairs of legs and a pair of wings are attached to the thorax. The insect wing is an outgrowth of the exoskeleton. The Anopheles mosquito can fly for up to four hours continuously at up to 1–2 km/h[8] travelling up to 12 km (7.5 mi) in a night.

The abdomen is specialized for food digestion and egg development. This segmented body part expands considerably when a female takes a blood meal. The blood is digested over time serving as a source of protein for the production of eggs, which gradually fill the abdomen.

Feeding habits of adults

Both male and female mosquitoes are nectar feeders, but the females of many species are also capable of hematophagy (drinking blood). Females do not require blood for their own survival, but they do need supplemental substances such as protein and iron to develop eggs. In regards to host location, carbon dioxide and organic substances produced from the host, humidity, and optical recognition play important roles. In Aedes the search for a host takes place in two phases. First, the mosquito exhibits a nonspecific searching behavior until the perception of host stimulants then it follows a targeted approach.[9]

Most mosquito species are crepuscular (dawn or dusk) feeders. During the heat of the day most mosquitoes rest in a cool place and wait for the evenings, although they may still bite if disturbed. Some species, like Asian tiger mosquito, are known to fly and feed during daytime.

Both male and female are nectar feeders

Mosquitoes are adept at infiltration and have been known to find their way into residences via deactivated air conditioning units.[10]

Prior to and during blood feeding, they inject saliva into the bodies of their source(s) of blood. This saliva serves as an anticoagulant: without it, the female mosquito's proboscis would quickly become clogged with blood clots. Female mosquitoes hunt their blood host by detecting carbon dioxide (CO2) and 1-octen-3-ol from a distance.

Mosquitoes of the genus Toxorhynchites never drink blood.[11] This genus includes the largest extant mosquitoes, the larvae of which prey on the larvae of other mosquitoes. These mosquito eaters have been used in the past as mosquito control agents, with varying success.[12]


In order for the mosquito to obtain a blood meal it must circumvent the vertebrate physiological responses. The mosquito, as with all blood-feeding arthropods, has mechanisms to effectively block the hemostasis system with their saliva, which contains a mixture of secreted proteins. Mosquito saliva negatively affects vascular constriction, blood clotting, platelet aggregation, angiogenesis and immunity and creates inflammation.[13] Universally, hematophagous arthropod saliva contains at least one anticlotting, one anti-platelet, and one vasodilatory substance. Mosquito saliva also contains enzymes that aid in sugar feeding[14] and antimicrobial agents to control bacterial growth in the sugar meal.[15] The composition of mosquito saliva is relatively simple as it usually contains fewer than 20 dominant proteins.[16] Despite the great strides in knowledge of these molecules and their role in bloodfeeding achieved recently, scientists still cannot ascribe functions to more than half of the molecules found in arthropod saliva.[16] One promising application is the development of anti-clotting drugs based on saliva molecules, which might be useful for approaching heart-related disease, because they are more user-friendly blood clotting inhibitors and capillary dilators.[17]

It is now well recognized that the feeding ticks, sandflies, and, more recently, mosquitoes have an ability to modulate the immune response of the animals (hosts) they feed on.[13] The presence of this activity in vector saliva is a reflection of the inherent overlapping and interconnected nature of the host hemostatic and inflammatory/immunological responses and the intrinsic need to prevent these host defenses from disrupting successful feeding. The mechanism for mosquito saliva-induced alteration of the host immune response is unclear, but the data has become increasingly convincing that such an effect occurs. Early work described a factor in saliva that directly suppresses TNF-α release, but not antigen-induced histamine secretion, from activated mast cells.[18] Experiments by Cross et al. (1994) demonstrated that the inclusion of Ae. aegypti mosquito saliva into naïve cultures led to a suppression of interleukin (IL)-2 and IFN-γ production, while the cytokines IL-4 and IL-5 are unaffected by mosquito saliva.[19] Cellular proliferation in response to IL-2 is clearly reduced by prior treatment of cells with SGE.[19] Correspondingly, activated splenocytes isolated from mice fed upon by either Ae. aegypti or Cx. pipiens mosquitoes produce markedly higher levels of IL-4 and IL-10 concurrent with suppressed IFN-γ production.[20] Unexpectedly, this shift in cytokine expression is observed in splenocytes up to 10 days after mosquito exposure, suggesting that natural feeding of mosquitoes can have a profound, enduring, and systemic effect on the immune response.[20]

T cell populations are decidedly susceptible to the suppressive effect of mosquito saliva, showing enhanced mortality and decreased division rates.[21] Parallel work by Wasserman et al. (2004) demonstrated that T- and B-cell proliferation was inhibited in a dose dependent manner with concentrations as low as 1/7th of the saliva in a single mosquito.[22] Depinay et al. (2005) observed a suppression of antibody-specific T cell responses mediated by mosquito saliva and dependent on mast cells and IL-10 expression.[23] A recent study suggests that mosquito saliva can also decrease expression of interferon−α/β during early mosquito-borne virus infection.[24] The contribution of type I interferons (IFN) in recovery from infection with viruses has been demonstrated in vivo by the therapeutic and prophylactic effects of administration of IFN-inducers or IFN,[25] and recent research suggests that mosquito saliva exacerbates West Nile virus infection,[26] as well as other mosquito-transmitted viruses.[27]

Egg development and blood digestion

Two important events in the life of female mosquitoes are egg development and blood digestion. After taking a blood meal the midgut of the female synthesizes proteolytic enzymes that hydrolyze the blood proteins into free amino acids. These are used as building blocks for the synthesis of egg yolk proteins.

In the mosquito Anopheles stephensi Liston, trypsin activity is restricted entirely to the posterior midgut lumen. No trypsin activity occurs before the blood meal, but activity increases continuously up to 30 hours after feeding, and subsequently returns to baseline levels by 60 hours. Aminopeptidase is active in the anterior and posterior midgut regions before and after feeding. In the whole midgut, activity rises from a baseline of approximately 3 enzyme units (EU) per midgut to a maximum of 12 EU at 30 hours after the blood meal, subsequently falling to baseline levels by 60 hours. A similar cycle of activity occurs in the posterior midgut and posterior midgut lumen, whereas aminopeptidase in the posterior midgut epithelium decreases in activity during digestion. Aminopeptidase in the anterior midgut is maintained at a constant low level, showing no significant variation with time after feeding. alpha-glucosidase is active in anterior and posterior midguts before and at all times after feeding. In whole midgut homogenates, alpha-glucosidase activity increases slowly up to 18 hours after the blood meal, then rises rapidly to a maximum at 30 hours after the blood meal, whereas the subsequent decline in activity is less predictable. All posterior midgut activity is restricted to the posterior midgut lumen. Depending upon the time after feeding, greater than 25% of the total midgut activity of alpha-glucosidase is located in the anterior midgut. After blood meal ingestion, proteases are active only in the posterior midgut. Trypsin is the major primary hydrolytic protease and is secreted into the posterior midgut lumen without activation in the posterior midgut epithelium. Aminopeptidase activity is also luminal in the posterior midgut, but cellular aminopeptidases are required for peptide processing in both anterior and posterior midguts. Alpha-glucosidase activity is elevated in the posterior midgut after feeding in response to the blood meal, whereas activity in the anterior midgut is consistent with a nectar-processing role for this midgut region.[28]


Female Ochlerotatus notoscriptus feeding on a human arm, Tasmania, Australia

While many species are native to tropical and subtropical regions, some such as Aedes have successfully adapted to cooler regions. In the warm and humid tropical regions, they are active the entire year long; however, in temperate regions they hibernate over winter. Eggs from strains in the temperate zones are more tolerant to the cold than ones from warmer regions.[29][30] They can even tolerate snow and temperatures under freezing. In addition, adults can survive throughout winter in suitable microhabitats.[31]

Means of dispersal

Over large distances the worldwide distribution is carried out primarily through sea routes, in which the eggs, larvae, and pupae in combination with water-filled used tires and cut flowers are transported around. As with sea transport, the transport of mosquitoes in personal vehicles, delivery trucks, and trains plays an important role.


Anopheles albimanus mosquito feeding on a human arm. This mosquito is a vector of malaria and mosquito control is a very effective way of reducing the incidence of malaria.

Mosquitoes are a vector agent that carries disease-causing viruses and parasites from person to person without catching the disease themselves.

The principal mosquito borne diseases are the viral diseases yellow fever, dengue fever and Chikungunya, transmitted mostly by the Aedes aegypti, and malaria carried by the genus Anopheles. Though originally a public health concern, HIV is now thought to be almost impossible for mosquitoes to transmit.[32]

Mosquitoes are estimated to transmit disease to more than 700 million people annually in Africa, South America, Central America, Mexico and much of Asia with millions of resulting deaths. At least 2 million people annually die of these diseases.

Methods used to prevent the spread of disease, or to protect individuals in areas where disease is endemic include Vector control aimed at mosquito eradication, disease prevention, using prophylactic drugs and developing vaccines and prevention of mosquito bites, with insecticides, nets and repellents. Since most such diseases are carried by "elderly" females, scientists have suggested focusing on these to avoid the evolution of resistance.[33]


Larvae in stagnant water

There are many methods used for mosquito control. Depending on the situation, source reduction, biocontrol, Insecticides to kill larvae, or specifically the adults may be used to manage mosquito populations.

These techniques are accomplished using habitat modification, such as removing stagnant water and other breeding areas, pesticide like DDT, natural predators, (eg Dragonflies, larvae-eating fish), and trapping.

Organic repellents

With increasing reports of the harmful effects DEET has on humans, there has been a gradual move to rely on repellents that are devoid of it, specifically to repellents that are organic and otherwise are of the kind that have had traditional household purposes prior to their becoming used now more often as mosquito repellents.[34]

Natural predators

Dragonflies are natural predators of mosquitoes.

The dragonfly nymph eats mosquitoes at all stages of development and is quite effective in controlling populations.[35] Although bats and Purple Martins can be prodigious consumers of insects, many of which are pests, less than 1% of their diet typically consists of mosquitoes. Neither bats nor Purple Martins are known to control or even significantly reduce mosquito populations.[36] Some cyclopoid copepods are predators on first instar larvae, killing up to 40 Aedes larvae per day.[37] Larval Toxorhynchites mosquitoes are known as natural predators of other Culicidae. Each larva can eat an average of 10 to 20 mosquito larvae per day. During its entire development, a Toxorhynchites larva can consume an equivalent of 5,000 larvae of the first instar (L1) or 300 fourth instar larvae (L4) (Steffan & Evenhuis, 1981; Focks, 1982). However, Toxorhynchites can consume all types of prey, organic debris (Steffan & Evenhuis, 1981), or even exhibit cannibalistic behavior. A number of fish are also known to consume mosquito larvae, including bass, bluegill, piranha, catfish, fathead minnows, the western mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis), goldfish, guppies, and killifish.

Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis has also been used to control them as a biological agent.

Mosquito bites and treatment

Mosquito prefer some people over others. The preferential victim's sweat simply smells better than others because of the proportions of the carbon dioxide, octenol and other compounds that make up body odour [38]. The powerful semiochemical that triggers the mosquito's keen sense of smell is Nonanal.[39] A large part of the mosquito’s sense of smell, or olfactory system, is devoted to sniffing out human targets. Of 72 types of odour receptor on its antennae, at least 27 are tuned to detect chemicals found in perspiration.[40]

Visible, irritating bites are due to an immune response from the binding of IgG and IgE antibodies to antigens in the mosquito's saliva. Some of the sensitizing antigens are common to all mosquito species, whereas others are specific to certain species. There are both immediate hypersensitivity reactions (Types I & III) and delayed hypersensitivity reactions (Type IV) to mosquito bites (see Clements, 2000).

There are several commercially available anti-itch medications, including those taken orally, such as Benadryl, or topically applied antihistamines and, for more severe cases, corticosteroids such as hydrocortisone and triamcinolone. Many effective home remedies exist, including calamine lotion and vinegar. A paste of meat tenderizer containing papain and water breaks down the proteins in the mosquito saliva. Both using a brush to scratch the area surrounding the bite and running hot water (around 49 °C) over it can alleviate itching for several hours by reducing histamine-induced skin blood flow.[41] On the other hand, excessive scratching can irritate the bite and break the skin, leading to prolonged recovery and the possibility of infection or scarring.[citation needed]


The oldest known mosquito with an anatomy similar to modern species was found in 79-million-year-old Canadian amber from the Cretaceous.[42] An older sister species with more primitive features was found in amber that is 90 to 100 million years old.[43]

Genetic analyses indicate that the Culicinae and Anophelinae clades may have diverged about 150 million years ago.[44] The Old and New World Anopheles species are believed to have subsequently diverged about 95 million years ago.[44]



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  • Clements, Alan (1992). The biology of mosquitoes. 1: Development, Nutrition and Reproduction. London: Chapman & Hall. ISBN 0-85199-374-5. 
  • Davidson, Elizabeth W. (1981). Pathogenesis of invertebrate microbial diseases. Montclair, N.J: Allanheld, Osmun. ISBN 0-86598-014-4. 
  • Jahn GC, Hall DW, Zam SG (1986). "A comparison of the life cycles of two Amblyospora (Microspora: Amblyosporidae) in the mosquitoes Culex salinarius and Culex tarsalis". Coquillett. J. Florida Anti-Mosquito Assoc. 57: 24–7. 
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  • Brunhes, J.; Rhaim, A.; Geoffroy, B. Angel G. Hervy J. P. Les Moustiques de l'Afrique mediterranéenne French/English. Interactive identification guide to mosquitoes of North Africa, with database of information on morphology, ecology, epidemiology, and control. Mac/PC Numerous illustrations. IRD/IPT [12640] 2000 CD-ROM. ISBN 2-7099-1446-8

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




Proper noun

Wikipedia has an article on:



  1. a taxonomic family, within superfamily Culicoidea - the mosquitoes
Wikispecies has information on:


See also

  • Anophelinae
  • Culicinae
  • Toxorhynchitinae


Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies

Aedes (Stegomyia) aegypti


Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Unikonta
Cladus: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Protostomia
Cladus: Ecdysozoa
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Hexapoda
Classis: Insecta
Cladus: Dicondylia
Cladus: Pterygota
Cladus: Metapterygota
Cladus: Neoptera
Cladus: Eumetabola
Cladus: Endopterygota
Superordo: Panorpida
Cladus: Antliophora
Ordo: Diptera
Subordo: Nematocera
Infraordo: Culicomorpha
Superfamilia: Culicoidea
Familia: Culicidae
Subfamiliae: Anophelinae - Culicinae




  • Azari-Hamidian, S.; Harbach, R.E. 2009: Keys to the adult females and fourth-instar larvae of the mosquitoes of Iran (Diptera: Culicidae). Zootaxa, 2078: 1-33. Abstract & excerpt
  • Harbach, R.E. 2007: The Culicidae (Diptera): a review of taxonomy, classification and phylogeny. Pp. 591-638 In: Zhang, Z.-Q. & Shear, W.A. (eds) Linnaeus tercentenary: progress in invertebrate taxonomy. Zootaxa, 1668: 1–766. PDF
  • Harbach, R.E.; Kitching, I.J. 1998: Phylogeny and classification of the Culicidae. Systematic entomology, 23: 327-370.
  • Knight, K. L. 1978. Supplement to a catalog of the mosquitoes of the world (Diptera: Culicidae). Thomas Say Foundation Supplement to Volume VI. Entomological Society of America, 107 pp.
  • Knight, K. L. and A. Stone. 1977. A catalog of the mosquitoes of the world (Diptera: Culicidae). Thomas Say Foundation Volume VI. 2nd Edition. Entomological Society of America, 611 pp.
  • Stone, A. 1956(1957). Corrections in the taxonomy and nomenclature of mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae). Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington 58: 333-344.
  • Ward, R. A. 1984. Second supplement to "A catalog of the mosquitoes of the world" (Diptera: Culicidae). Mosquito Systematics 16: 227-270.
  • Ward, R. A. 1992. Third supplement to "A catalog of the mosquitoes of the world" (Diptera: Culicidae). Mosquito Systematics 24: 177-230.

Vernacular names

Català: Mosquit
Deutsch: Stechmücke
English: Mosquito
Հայերեն: Մոծակներ
日本語: カ科
Suomi: Hyttyset
Türkçe: Sivrisinek
Vèneto: Sginzala/Sginsala, Mussato, Mussolin
Wikimedia Commons For more multimedia, look at Culicidae on Wikimedia Commons.


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