Why mosquito bites itch

Author: Anthony Yanez, Meteorologist, ayanez@kprc.com
Published On: Sep 05 2012 08:58:37 AM CDT   Updated On: Sep 05 2012 10:15:38 AM CDT

Life Cycle and Ecology

Understanding the mosquito’s life cycle and ecology can help you avoid getting bitten.

•There are over 3,000 species of mosquitoes worldwide, with at least 150 in the U.S.

•Mosquitoes start life out as aquatic larvae in standing bodies of water such as ponds, swamps and marshes. Their larvae can live in as little as an inch of water so even temporary puddles will serve as nurseries.

•Mosquitoes’ primary food source is flower nectar and fruit juices. Only the female mosquito feeds on blood. She uses the protein-rich blood meal to fuel the production of eggs.

•In the process of feeding on nectar, mosquitoes help to pollinate flowers.

•Female mosquitoes find their victims by sight and by following the chemical trail of carbon dioxide and water vapor from the breath of people and animals.

•Mosquitoes inject saliva into the bite to keep blood from clotting. An allergic reaction to the saliva is what causes the resulting itchy welt.

•A female can lay 200-300 eggs at time.

•In the U.S. diseases such as West Nile Virus and canine heartworm are spread by mosquitoes.

•The vast majority of mosquitoes are eaten by predators. Eggs and aquatic larvae are fed on by fish, salamander larvae and dragonfly nymphs. Adults are eaten by birds, bats, amphibians, dragonflies and many other insects.

10 Tips for Keeping Mosquitoes at Bay

1.Remove unnecessary standing water around your home. Typical hot-beds for mosquito reproduction are clogged gutters, flower-pot drainage dishes, children’s play equipment, tarps and any debris that can hold water.

2.Share this advice with your neighbors. Mosquitoes that emerge in their yards will easily travel to yours.

3.Empty and refill birdbaths every few days. It takes a minimum of about a week for the metamorphosis from egg to larva to pupa to winged adult to be completed, so this eliminates any chance that your birdbath will serve as a mosquito nursery.

4.Attract mosquito predators. Add plants to water gardens to attract frogs, salamanders and dragonflies and put up houses for birds and bats. Fish feed on mosquito larvae, just don’t release goldfish or other exotic species into natural areas.

5.Don’t use insecticides or put oil on the surface of bodies of water. This kills beneficial insects and mosquito predators and causes air and water pollution.

6.“Mosquito Dunks” that contain natural bacteria that kills mosquitoes can be added to water gardens without harming fish, birds or other wildlife. (Closely related insects, some beneficial, could be affected though.)

7.DEET-based repellants are effective but if you want to avoid synthetic chemicals, aromatic herbal repellents also work if applied frequently.

8.Avoid going outdoors at dusk, which is peak mosquito time, or wear long sleeves to minimize exposed skin that could be bitten.

9.Bug zappers aren’t effective against mosquitoes. Zappers do kill thousands of beneficial insects a night.

10.Mosquitoes are not strong flyers and the breeze created by a fan is often all you need to keep a patio or deck mosquito-free so you can enjoy the outdoors.