Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Common House Mosquito

Culex pipiens
We learn about all sorts of creatures on Animal a Day. Sometimes they are majestic Leopards, sometimes they are beautiful Birds-of-Paradise.... and sometimes they are tiny little disease carriers that everyone hates.

I'm sure you've met Culex pipiens before; he is usually referred to as the Common House Mosquito. These tiny insects cane be found throughout the Northern Hemisphere, and are usually the most common Mosquitos in suburban and urban areas (yes, there are actually many different species of Mosquito).

I'm sure this is no surprise to you, but Common House Mosquitos feed on blood. Bird blood is their favorite drink, but humans and other mammals also appear on the menu. However, all those bites can be attributed to the females-- males actually do not feed on blood at all. They do not have biting mouth parts, and feed instead on plant nectar.

Common House Mosquitos have a short breeding cycle and can reproduce quickly and in very large numbers. A female can lay up to 350 eggs at once, depositing them in stagnant or polluted water. Those eggs hatch after only 2 days, and the larvae pupate and become adults after only a week or two.

Females at the end of the warm season have very important jobs to do, since the propagation of their species rests entirely on them. Normal Mosquitos only live about 2 weeks as adults, but late Summer females have to last for months! They mate and then build up fat reserves and find warm places to hang out (like basements). Their metabolism slows down considerably, and when spring rolls around they seek out food and then lay their eggs.

Their huge population caused by the fast breeding cycle makes Common House Mosquitos especially dangerous. They serve as vectors that transmit diseases from birds to mammals. Diseases like West Nile and SLE can easily get passed from bird to bird, and from bird to mammal, and eradicating these conditions is near impossible because of the sheer number of Mosquitos that carry the diseases with them. These diseases can be fatal to humans. Last year in the United States there were 712 cases of West Nile, and 43 deaths. Using Mosquito repellent and eliminating breeding locations is especially important during the summer months.

IUCN Status : Not Listed
Location : Northern Hemisphere
Size : Body Length up to 7mm.
Classification : Phylum : Arthropoda -- Class : Insecta -- Order : Diptera
Family : Culicidae -- Genus : Culex -- Species : C. pipiens

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