When most people think of mosquitoes, we imagine blood-sucking pests that leave behind itchy bites and spread disease. However, these pesky little insects are far more interesting than we could ever imagine. The word “mosquito” is Spanish and Portuguese for “little fly“. These “little flies” have been around for millions of years. They date all the way back to the Late Cretaceous period, roughly 145 million years ago. There are currently 3,000 different species of mosquitoes, and not all of them have the same diet plan.
We’ll explore the mosquitoes’ diet and how they are surprisingly one of the world’s most deadly animals despite their small size.
What Do Mosquitoes Eat?
This may come as a surprise, but not all mosquitoes drink blood. Male and female mosquitoes eat quite different foods. Female mosquitoes eat blood, while male mosquitoes do not.
Since female mosquitoes are the ones producing eggs and breeding, they need higher levels of protein to supply their energy. Blood provides them with the right amount of protein and other compounds. These are all essential to help them successfully reproduce and breed their eggs.
While it may seem like they only feed on human blood, female mosquitoes will drink blood from mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and birds. Despite the females drinking blood, adult mosquitoes are classified as herbivores as they mostly rely on plant nectar for energy.
However, both male and female mosquitoes do have one thing in common with many other insects, and that is a need for a diet high in sugar. This means that both male mosquitoes and female mosquitoes feed on nectar from plants.
Here is a list of the most common foods that mosquitoes will eat:
- Plant sap
When they do consume blood, a female mosquito can drink up to three times its weight in blood. They even have a preference for the type of host they choose to feed on. They will often prefer hosts whose sweat smells sweeter than others.
What Do Different Types Of Mosquitoes Eat?
While many species of female mosquitoes are adapted for drinking blood, not all species of mosquitoes drink blood. Both male and female elephant mosquitoes only drink nectar. Along with not drinking blood, elephant mosquitoes are also responsible for controlling the number of blood-sucking mosquitoes that make it into adulthood.
Elephant mosquitoes larvae eat other species of mosquito larvae. This includes many species that may grow up to prey on blood.
Are Mosquitoes Dangerous to Humans? The World’s Smallest Deadliest Animal
When we think of the deadliest animals on the planet, we often picture razor-sharp teeth, long claws, and incredible strength or speed. While mosquitoes are small in appearance, you may be surprised to find that they are the world’s deadliest animal.
What makes them so dangerous is their ability to spread disease and parasites so easily.
According to the CDC, “spreading diseases such as malaria, dengue, West Nile, yellow fever, Zika, chikungunya, and lymphatic filariasis, the mosquito kills more people than any other animal in the world.”
Unlike other bugs that bite, such as flies, when feeding mosquitoes pierce the skin like a needle and inject their saliva into the person’s skin. This is what allows them to transmit viruses, bacteria, parasites, and more. Along with being a threat to humans, mosquitoes also pose a huge threat to a large number of animals.
If they bite into an infected bird, for example, they can then easily spread avian pathogens to others mammals, amphibians, and reptiles.
The key to avoiding mosquito-borne sickness is to avoid mosquito bites. During mosquito season, there are several simple precautions you can take to keep yourself and your loved ones safe such as wearing long sleeves and pants, using insect repellant, and dumping out any standing water near your home.
How the Mosquito Diet Impacts the Ecosystem
Mosquitoes are part of the ecosystem in a larger and more impactful way than we may think.
While it might be tempting to believe that getting rid of mosquitoes could be the solution to the widespread disease, doing so would actually destroy many species in the process. This is because all living creatures play a crucial part in the ecosystems in which they live, and removing one living item from a habitat can wreak havoc with all the other species.
Mosquitos play an extremely important role in many ecosystems. Male mosquitoes consume nectar, pollinating a wide range of plants in the process. Many other animals, including bats, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and even other insects, rely on mosquitoes as a food source.
So while they may be annoying to us and leave us with itchy bites, mosquitoes do continue to play a large role in the ecosystem.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/nechaev-kon
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