The mosquito life cycle takes place in four distinct stages, from egg through to adulthood.
Female mosquitoes lay eggs about every third day during their lifespan, usually in clumps of 100 to 300 eggs. The eggs are deposited either as “rafts” floating on the surface of standing water or on the ground in areas that regularly flood. Mosquitoes can lay eggs in as little as one inch of water. The eggs, generally white when laid, cannot hatch unless they are in water, usually for two to three days.
When the eggs hatch, the larvae emerge. They are called “wigglers” because that’s how they swim. Most of the time, they hang from the surface of the water, breathing through tubes. The wigglers feed on organic matter in the water, shed their skins four times over about a week, and develop into pupae. Larvae are the easiest to kill, using oils that block their breathing or bacteria that poison them.
The pupae are called “tumblers” for the way the fall into the deepest part of the water when threatened by predators. They are shaped like commas, partially encased in cocoons, with the head at one end and tiny flippers at the other. The pupae do not feed while developing, but breathe through tubes like the larvae. It takes about four days for the the adult mosquito to emerge.
The newly emerged adults climb out of the water to rest and wait for their bodies to dry out. The males will take a day or two to fully develop their reproductive organs, then seek out a female, by the sound of her wingbeats, for mating. They’ll live about three to five days after that, feeding on fruit and plant nectar. The females mate once, but continue laying eggs after every blood meal. Under the best conditions, they can live up to a month or two.
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