There are more than 3,000 species of mosquitoes in the world. These species fall into 39 genera. In the United States, Culex spp., or the house mosquito, and Aedes spp., or the yellow fever mosquito, are two of the most common.
Regardless of the species, each mosquito undergoes the same general life cycle, passing through four full stages of development before you find it buzzing around your yard. While mosquitoes are irritating, their life cycle is interesting. Learn more about how these insects breed, grow and live.
How Do Mosquitoes Breed?
Mosquitoes begin breeding about 28 hours after they reach adulthood. Typically, a female only needs to mate once, and after this is done, she can lay eggs for the remainder of her life. Most female mosquitoes can produce between 50 and 500 eggs in their first brood. Subsequent broods may have fewer eggs, but a single female mosquito may produce up to 10 broods throughout her life.
Related: Mosquito Breeding
Mosquitoes lay their eggs in or around stagnant or slow-moving water. Some species, including Culex spp. stack their eggs on top of each other to form “rafts” in the water. These species of mosquitoes, which include species of house mosquitoes, are often found in places like ditches, standing water from sewage or septic systems, birdbaths and abandoned tires. Their eggs cannot develop in running water or water that has been left standing for less than a week.
Types of Aedes mosquitoes employ different methods to lay their eggs. The Asian tiger mosquito and tree hole mosquito seek out contained water to lay their eggs in. That’s why they are known as some of the container mosquito species. Floodwater mosquitoes, as the name suggests, find low ground that floods when it rains. Their eggs will hatch and develop in the water that gets trapped. Unlike Culex spp., these mosquitoes lay single eggs at a time, either on the water’s surface or on the ground.
Life Cycle Stages
The mosquito life cycle includes a complete metamorphosis with four stages:
Egg – Most mosquito eggs, after being exposed to water, will hatch within 24-72 hours.
Larvae – After the eggs hatch, mosquito larvae, known as “wigglers,” emerge. They wiggle around the surface of the water, feeding on various materials, including algae, bacteria, protozoans and other organic material, using mouth brushes to ingest particles. The amount of time between the larval and pupal stage varies depending on species and weather conditions, but it typically lasts a few days. Larvae will molt four times total, growing larger with each successive molt. At the time of their final molt, they will average about half of an inch in length.
Pupae – Following their final molt, mosquito larvae enter the pupal stage. During this stage, the pupae, also called “tumblers,” stay near the surface of the water. They breathe air and form a pupa casing, which inside they transform into adults. The pupal stage usually lasts from one to four days depending on species and water temperature.
Adult – After the pupal stage is complete, an adult mosquito will emerge. Typically, the insect will rest on the water’s surface until its legs and wings are strong enough to support it.
Generally speaking, the complete metamorphosis that mosquitoes go through can range from four days to one month.
Adult male mosquitoes usually live for one to two weeks. Males do not seek blood. The instead feed on nectar and plant juices. Females can survive for around a month. They feed on nectar but also seek blood meals to find proteins vital to producing eggs.
Understanding the mosquito life cycle is crucial to effective prevention and control of this pest. Knowing their preferred breeding grounds, and removing them, can help homeowners stave off infestations in their yards.
Removing sources of standing water, such as old tires and buckets, can help reduce the chances of mosquitoes laying eggs near your home.
You can also change water in birdbaths or pet bowls weekly and install moving elements to decorative ponds and water features to help deter the insects.
Additional tips for mosquito prevention include cleaning your gutters regularly, practicing proper pool maintenance, sealing gaps around doors and windows, and replacing outdoor lighting with “bug lights.”
Of course, proper control requires managing both adult mosquitoes and their eggs, and many do-it-yourself methods are ineffective in this. Learn about the mosquito service at Terminix® and how it can help you and your family enjoy being outdoors in your yard.