What Do Mosquitoes Eat?—Exploring the Mosquito Diet
By: Rita Stadler
Some mosquitoes are valuable pollinators, but that’s probably the last thing on your mind when you hear one buzzing by your ear at night.
It’s easy to understand why we’re not overly sympathetic to mosquitoes, but we’re also aware we can’t squash them all. Nature actually relies on these buzzy creatures to maintain natural order. Yes, whether we like it or not, even mosquitoes play a valuable role in our environment.
However, we should still take proper precautions to repel them. After all, they can carry harmful diseases, and can leave some pretty gnarly welts. Let’s learn a little bit about what mosquitoes eat so that we can avoid being on the menu!
What do mosquitoes eat?
If you’re scratching an itchy bug bite while reading this, you might think the answer is obvious. While it may seem like mosquitoes are little vampires that want to drink your blood, the truth is the mosquito diet is filled with a variety of other foods, too.
If mosquito eggs have ample water, they will hatch, releasing very hungry larvae! While they grow and develop, they feed on algae, bacteria, and organic matter in the water. These little wrigglers—as they’re called—also serve as a food source for other aquatic species. Naturally, this means mosquitoes thrive in bodies of water that lack hungry fish to gobble them up.
When mosquitoes reach adulthood, their food preferences change depending on whether they are female or male.
Mosquito feeding habits—females VS males
To get a balanced diet of sugar and carbohydrates, adult mosquitoes will eat nectar or honeydew from plants. This sweet snack gives them the energy they need to fly around and find a mate. Mosquitoes actually help pollinate plants during this process, showing that every being serves a unique role in our ecosystem—even mosquitoes.
You’ve probably heard a family friend proudly state at the first summer barbecue of the year that only female mosquitoes bite. This is actually true! It’s only when female mosquitoes are ready to lay eggs that they need blood, and pose a threat to our health.
Females require a specific protein in order to lay eggs. Unfortunately, this protein is only found in blood, causing them to seek warm-blooded mammals to feast on. (Can someone please invent a protein powder for mosquitoes already?!)
Mosquitoes can sense the carbon dioxide we naturally exhale when breathing, making it easy for them to find us. They can also track mammals based on body heat. This is why you may notice substantially more mosquitoes bothering you when you’re out for a run or bike ride.
When we sweat, our bodies produce lactic acid, which gives off a specific scent mosquitoes can easily pick up on. This scent tells them food is nearby! Genetics are responsible for how much carbon dioxide and lactic acid one emits, which is why mosquitoes are drawn to some people more than others.
Unfortunately, you can’t change your DNA, but you can use the skin-friendly Stay Away® Mosquitoes repellent. Stay Away® Mosquitoes masks your musk, making you invisible to mosquitoes. These buzzing bugs can’t pick up on the your scintillating scent and stay away for 14 hours.
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Why do mosquito bites itch?
The short answer is: because of their saliva. When a female mosquito bites, they use a long, straw-like mouthpiece to extract blood. Before they start to feed, their saliva is injected into the skin of the host. Mother Nature—being the masterful queen that she is—blessed mosquitoes with saliva that’s laden with numbing compounds. This prevents the host from feeling a thing, while mosquitoes load up at the blood buffet. And it doesn’t stop there! To ensure they get enough to eat, the compounds in their saliva deliberately prevent blood from clotting. It’s these compounds that are responsible for that itchy sensation that lingers long after the first bite. Mother Nature, we love ya, but—really?!
What’s the best way to get rid of mosquitoes?
The best way to protect yourself from mosquitoes is to eliminate their breeding grounds and take away their food sources.
These three steps will help you get rid of standing water (prime mosquito breeding grounds) from your yard:
- Look for puddles underneath outdoor faucets and air conditioners.
- Change the water in birdbaths and pet water dishes every couple of days.
- Keep gutters free of leaves and debris to prevent stagnant water.
How to repel mosquitoes
Protect yourself and repel mosquitoes:
- Keep skin covered with long sleeves and pants. Light-colored, loose-fitting clothing can help you stay cool and comfortable, even in the summer heat.
- Avoid using strong perfumes or other floral scents. These scents attract mosquitoes and other bugs.
- Use a mosquito repellent registered with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and ensure it contains ingredients recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Stay Away® Mosquitoes is an EPA Registered repellent made with Picaridin, an ingredient recommended by the CDC. Stay Away® Mosquitoes is unscented, skin-friendly and provides 14-hour effective prevention against mosquitoes and ticks. It’s water-resistant too, so you can wear it during all of your outdoor activities without worrying about reapplying.
Now that you know what mosquitoes eat, you can make sure you’re protected from their bites. Continue your mosquito prevention planning, by learning about the different diseases mosquitoes can spread.