The World’s Largest Mosquito Species

Elephant Mosquito
Amir Ridhwan/Shutterstock.com

Written by Janet F. Murray

Published: September 27, 2022

Share on:

Advertisement


Mosquitoes are pesky creatures as far as many people are concerned. They often leave nasty toxins after sucking your blood, causing itchy, painful welts. Besides, these bloodsuckers keep you awake at night, depriving you of much-needed sleep. But which is the world’s largest mosquito species, and is it an annoying bloodsucker or one that carries disease? Let’s find out.

Elephant Mosquito

The Australian

Elephant

mosquito is the world’s largest mosquito species with wingspans reaching 1.3 inches.

Not All Mosquitoes Are Bloodsuckers

All mosquito species are insects and belong to the same two-winged Diptera order. Part of the characteristics of the Diptera order is that all mosquitoes have two wings with scales. And many female mosquitoes are bloodsuckers because they need the protein to develop their eggs. In contrast, all male mosquitoes have mouthparts that are not adapted to pierce the skin and only feed on nectar. Additionally, certain mosquito species feed on other mosquitoes.

Confusion Over Mosquitoes and Craneflies

People confuse mosquitoes with craneflies because they look so much alike. And while some groups believe that craneflies are another name for mosquitoes, this belief is not entirely accurate.
So you need to dig a little deeper to appreciate that mosquitoes and craneflies are related but not quite the same. The table below shows some facts about these winged creatures.

MosquitoesCraneflies
PhylumArthropodaArthropoda
ClassInsectaInsecta
OrderDipteraDiptera
SuborderNematoceraNematocera
FamilyCulicidaeTipulidae – crane flies, tipules
SubfamilyAnophelinae, Culicinae, ToxorhynchitinaeTipulinae
Genuse.g., Anopheles, Culex, Culiseta, Aedes and Mansonia, Psorophora, WyeomyiaTipula Linnaeus Nephrotoma
Species (examples)Common house mosquito, Australian elephant mosquito (Toxorhynchites), Asian tiger mosquito, Gallinipper mosquitoTipula paludosa Meigen, European crane fly, Tipule des prairies, Tipula Pterelachisus abant, Tipula abdominalis, Tipula aberdareica

While mosquitoes and craneflies belong to the same Nematocera suborder, they go their separate ways at the family level. From this level, you see that mosquitoes belong to the Culicidae family, and craneflies belong to the Tipulidae family. Once you reach the species level, there are over 3.500 mosquito species and more than 1,000 types of craneflies.

Why all the fuss about distinguishing these two families? Well, suppose you want to know which is the world’s largest mosquito species. In that case, separating the cranefly from the mosquito is necessary.

What Do Crane Flies Eat - Crane Fly On Leaf

While mosquitoes and craneflies are similar, they do not belong to the same family.

The Australian Elephant Mosquito – World’s Largest Mosquito Species 

As it turns out, the Australian Elephant mosquito or the Toxorhynchites speciosus takes the prize for the world’s largest mosquito species. The Australian Elephant mosquito is quite a substantial insect, reaching lengths up to 1,3 inches. The adults feed on the sap from plants, honeydew, and nectar.

At the same time, the larvae of these mosquitoes prey on the larvae of disease-carrying mosquitoes. The Australian Elephant mosquito’s favorite prey is another mosquito species, the Aedys Notoscriptos (dengue fever mosquito). Elephant mosquitoes also consume the Culex Quinquefasciatus (southern house mosquito).

They Don’t Need Blood to Survive

Elephant mosquito females do not need a blood meal to produce eggs. Adults feed only on carbohydrate-rich foods, such as nectar. Because they do not feed on human or animal hosts, they do not transmit pathogens.

Like all Australian Elephant mosquitoes, they have a long proboscis that curls under their bodies like an elephant’s trunk. This proboscis is relatively fragile, so it cannot pierce human or animal skin. However, they use this appendage to feed on their favorite plants, such as romerillo, aquatic milkweed, and fleabane.

The World’s Largest Mosquito Species Is Active During Daytime

Elephant mosquitoes are most active during the daytime and live in forested warm tropical areas. Others, like Toxorhynchites Splendens, live in coastal areas. However, as a species, Toxorhynchites inhabit countries in the Old World. Still, experts have identified some species in North America, Asia, and the Samoan Islands. But no matter where they live, the world’s largest mosquito species do not survive on blood. Instead, it is peaceful, flitting from plant to plant, feeding on nectar and fruit when it isn’t devouring other mosquitoes and their larva.

Australian Elephant mosquito larvae

The Australian Elephant mosquito’s larvae are predatory, feeding on mosquitoes that spread disease, and their larvae.

Their Larvae Are Great at Keeping Other Mosquito Numbers Down

Researchers in Palawan are looking into how Australian Elephant mosquitoes affect other mosquito populations. They found that all Elephant mosquito larvae are predatory, possibly because they are bigger than other mosquito larvae. Also, the mandibles of these larvae are strong, making it easy to grasp their prey.

Another curious fact is that they favor consuming the disease spreading Aedes Notoscriptos and others. However, the larva also eats aquatic worms and dragonfly nymphs. One single larva can ingest as many as 5,000 prey larvae during its growth stage.

Because of their research, scientists planned to release Toxorchyncites larvae in areas where Aedes and Culex rapidly multiplied. It is a similar plan to the one in the 1960s for screwworms. The release of sterile male screwworms helped to eradicate the screwworm population. Scientists anticipated that releasing the Australian Elephant larva would likewise control disease spreading mosquitoes and their larvae.

Some Species of Bloodsucking Mosquitoes Show A Marked Decline

In 2016 scientists also discovered that Aedys Aegypti was widespread across Europe. First introduced to Europe via the West African slave trade about 500 years ago, these mosquitoes have continued to expand their populations. Now, authorities must control the numbers of Aedys Aegypti since these mosquitoes carry several viruses. Yellow fever, Dengue, chikungunya, and the Zika viruses are all severe illnesses these mosquitoes can spread through their bites.

Adding to earlier research, scientists have been studying the effects of growing Toxorchyncites larvae in laboratories. They undertook this research before depositing them in areas with high incidents of bloodsucking mosquito activity. Also, this research has become critical because many mosquito species have become resistant to insecticides. So, releasing the appropriate predatory mosquito species was thought to be a viable way of keeping bloodsuckers in check. Introducing their predators is also an effective strategy to control mosquito-borne diseases.

And it turns out that the scientists were right about their Toxorchyncites larvae theory. After releasing the Toxorchyncites larvae, studies showed a marked decrease in Aedys Aegypti larvae development. These studies also show that the Aedys Aegypti and similar targets have shorter adult lifespans and lay fewer eggs. Additionally, some species avoid sites where larvae predators are present.

Up Next – Tiny Mosquitoes With A Massive Impact


Share this post on:
About the Author

I'm a freelance writer with more than eight years of content creation experience. My content writing covers diverse genres, and I have a business degree. I am also the proud author of my memoir, My Sub-Lyme Life. This work details the effects of living with undiagnosed infections like rickettsia (like Lyme). By sharing this story, I wish to give others hope and courage in overcoming their life challenges. In my downtime, I value spending time with friends and family.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.