Exploring the Mosquito Diet
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 these pests, 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 like dengue fever and zika, 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. And 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. Their diet will vary depending on where they are in their life cycle and if they are male or female.
Different Foods During Different Stages
The food a mosquito needs will depend on which life cycle stage they are currently going through.
Larva – If mosquito eggs have ample water, they will hatch, releasing very hungry larvae! While they grow and develop in their larval stage, they feed on algae, bacteria, and organic material in the water. These little wrigglers—as they’re called—also serve as a food source for other aquatic species. Naturally, this means mosquito larvae thrive in bodies of water that lack hungry fish to gobble them up.
Pupae (also known as tumblers) – In this stage of development, it’s not necessary for them to eat anything at all. Their only goal here is to grow into an adult.
Adult Mosquitoes – When they reach adulthood, their food preferences change depending on whether they are female or male. But something that’s common to all adult mosquitoes is their attraction to sugar. To get a balanced diet of sugar and carbohydrates, adult mosquitoes will eat nectar, plant sap or honeydew from flowering plants. This sweet snack gives them the energy they need to fly around and find a mate. These pests actually help pollinate plants during this process, showing that every being serves a unique role in our ecosystem—even mosquitoes.
Female vs Male Mosquito Feeding Habits
Females require a specific protein in order to lay eggs. Unfortunately, this protein is only found in blood, causing them to seek any warm-blooded mammal to feast on. (Can someone please invent a protein powder for them already?!) This means only adult female mosquitoes bite! It’s only when females are ready to lay eggs that they need a blood meal, and pose a threat to our health. Not only do their bites cause itching, but they can also spread disease.
Male mosquitoes can survive without the proteins from blood. They simply focus on eating the plant nectar and looking for a mate.
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Keep These Hungry Pests Away
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 of these pests 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 they 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.
It’s important to learn to protect yourself and repel mosquitoes. Here are three tips to keep in mind:
- 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. This unscented, skin-friendly repellent provides 14-hour effective prevention against mosquitoes and ticks. It masks your musk, making you invisible to these pests. 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. Learn about other ways to repel and prevent these pests here.