Mosquitoes are insects belonging to the order Diptera, the True Flies. Like all True Flies, they have two wings, but unlike other flies, mosquito wings have scales. “Mosquito” is a Spanish or Portuguese word meaning “little fly”.
There are over 3,000 different species of mosquitoes throughout the world; currently 176 species are recognized in the United States. There are over 50 species of mosquitoes known to occur in Alabama. Click here to see a current list of those species.
Only female mosquitoes have the mouth parts necessary for sucking blood. While biting using their long, piercing-sucking proboscis, they inject an enzyme that inhibits blood clotting. They use the blood not for their own nourishment but as a source of protein for their eggs. Mosquitoes use exhaled carbon dioxide, body odors and temperature, and movement to find a host. Once a host is found, the female mosquito will use molecular cues from the host’s skin to determine whether it is suitable for a blood meal. One of the most effective mosquito repellents, DEET, scrambles these molecular cues where they are received on the legs of the mosquito so the mosquito does not know it has landed on a suitable host.
Males differ from females by having feathery antennae and mouthparts not suitable for piercing skin. A mosquito’s principal food is nectar or similar sugar source.
Some mosquito species are capable of transmitting diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, dengue, filariasis and encephalitis including St. Louis encephalitis (SLE), Western Equine encephalitis (WEE), LaCrosse encephalitis (LAC), Japanese encephalitis (JE), Eastern Equine encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile virus (WNV)] to humans and animals. They also transmit heartworm disease (Dirofilaria immitis) to dogs and cats, and sometimes wild carnivores and the occasional human.
For more information about mosquitoes, click on this downloadable and printable file: More Mosquito Resources.