The mosquito is a common flying insect that is found around the world. There are about 2,700 species of mosquitoes. Mosquitoes can fly about 1 to 1.5 miles per hour (1.6-2.4 kph).
Mosquito Bites: Females drink blood and the nectar of plants; the males only sip plant nectar. When a female bites, she also injects an anticoagulant (anti-clotting chemical) into the prey to keep the victim's blood flowing. She finds her victims by sight and smell, and also by detecting their warmth. Not all mosquito species bite humans.
Disease Carrier: The mosquito is often a carrier of diseases, such as malaria, encephalitis, yellow fever, dengue fever, dog heartworm, West Nile virus, and many others. The females, who drink blood, can carry disease from one animal to another as they feed.
Anatomy: Like all insects, the mosquito has a body divided into three parts (head, thorax, and abdomen), a hard exoskeleton, and six long, jointed legs. Mosquitoes also have a pair of veined wings. They have a straw-like proboscis and can only eat liquids.
Life Cycle: The complete life-cycle of a mosquito takes about a month. After drinking blood, adult females lay a raft of 40 to 400 tiny white eggs in standing water or very slow-moving water. Within a week, the eggs hatch into larvae (sometimes called wrigglers) that breathe air through tubes which they poke above the surface of the water. Larvae eat bits of floating organic matter and each other. Larvae molt four times as they grow; after the fourth molt, they are called pupae (also called tumblers). Pupae also live near the surface of the water, breathing through two horn-like tubes (called siphons) on their back. Pupae do not eat. An adult emerges from a pupa when the skin splits after a few days. The adult lives for only a few weeks.
Classification: Kingdom Animalia; Phylum Arthropoda; Class Insecta; Order Diptera ("two wings"); Family Culicidae.
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