Public Health Agency of Canada / Agence de santé public du Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada



Mosquito Life History

Mosquitoes are in the Class Insecta, the insects.
They have an hard, segmented exoskeleton.The body is divided into three sections; the head, thorax, and abdomen.They have 3 pairs of legs.

Mosquitoes are in the Order Diptera, the true flies. They have one set of wings, the second pair has been modified into halteres which are used for balance.

Mosquitoes are in the Family Culicidae. Worldwide there are over 3000 species of mosquitoes. There are approximately 170 species of mosquitoes in the United States.

Mosquitoes undergo complete metamorphosis, they go through four life stages: Egg, Larva, Pupa, Adult.

Eggs are laid on the waters' surface or in areas that will later hold water after it rains.  Most will hatch within a few days but some species can remain viable for years.  Many species over-winter in the egg stage.

The larva is the growth stage of mosquitoes.  They feed on rotting plant material and bacteria in the water.  Some species are predacious on other mosquito larva.  Most species prefer stagnant, standing water but others use clean water or even calm areas of moving water.  They are commonly called wigglers because of how they move.

The pupa is a resting stage where adult features, such as the wings, are developed.  This stage usually lasts about two days.  They are commonly called tumblers because when disturbed they will tumble to the bottom of the water column. 

Adults generally live for only a couple of weeks.  However, some can survive several months and, in some species, this is how they survive the winter.  Only the females of some species take a blood meal.  Most adults stay close to where they emerged from the water but some can fly over 10 miles.  It generally takes 7-10 days from the time the eggs hatch to the adults emerging from the water.  Different mosquito species use different water sources to breed in, some prefer permanent water such as marshes and lake, while some prefer temporary water sources such as roadside ditches or artificial containers.

(This photo above was scanned from a CDC publication “Mosquitoes of Public Health Importance and their control” 1976 by Harry D. Pratt, Richard F. Darsie Jr. and Kent S. Littig) 

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