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What Do Mosquitoes Eat?

Summary: Mosquitoes feed on amphibians (frogs), animal blood, aphid honeydew, birds (crows, ducks, geese, herons, jays, passerine birds, robins, sparrows), blood meal, caterpillars, cicadas, fish (mudskippers), larvae of other mosquitoes, mammals (monkeys, raccoons), mantids, nectar, plant juices, and reptiles (snakes, lizards).

Category: Insects.

Adult mosquitoes, both males and females, feed primarily on nectar, plant juices and honeydew. For most female mosquitoes to lay eggs, unfortunately, they will need to feed on blood, either from us or other animals, in order to get the protein required to produce eggs. As for most mosquito larvae, they feed on microscopic material that floats in the water and breath air on the surface of the water.

Mosquitoes feeding in between the scales of a Smooth Machete Savane snake. © Geoff Gallice.

Sources of blood

Females mosquitoes can get their blood meal from sources such as humans, reptiles, mammals, birds, amphibians and even fish that are exposed to the air, such as mudskippers. Some mosquitoes feed on selective monkeys and others feed on a specific type of bird. For example, female mosquitoes from the genus Culiseta feeds on the blood of passerine birds. Most mosquitoes are either dawn or dusk feeders and spend most of the daytime resting in cold spaces. Some species, such as the Asian tiger mosquito feed during the daytime.

How do they feed on blood?

Female mosquitoes that feed on blood meal are equipped with a special mouthpiece called proboscis. It is a long, thin needle that is specially designed to pierce thru our skin or an animal’s skin to suck its blood. When a female mosquito finds a suitable prey, it will land on its skin, use it’s proboscis to pierce thru the skin, injects some saliva and will start to feed on the blood. The unique thing about a mosquito’s saliva is that they are made of anticoagulant protein that thins the blood. This makes it easier to drain blood from the prey. Other proteins in the saliva also helps to numb the skin while the mosquito sucks as much blood as it needs. The remaining saliva in the skin is actually what causes mosquito bites to itch.

Hugh difference in size between a Toxorhychites rutilus larvae (right) versus Culex pipiens larvae (left). © Ary Farajollahi.

Not all female mosquitoes feed on blood

However, not all female mosquito species feed on blood to produce eggs. Female mosquitoes from the genus Toxorhynchites for example, doesn’t need to feed on blood to produce eggs. The reason being is that the larvae of the genus Toxorhynchites feed on other mosquito larvae when they are young (watch the video on youtube), and therefore do not need to get the protein required once they are adults. Adult Toxorhynchites, both males and females, feed mainly on nectar and honeydew. They do not feed on blood, either humans or animals, and therefore are safe for us.

Hibernation

In colder regions, some fertilized female mosquitoes will hibernate thru winter while their male counterparts will simply die. To survive while hibernating, female mosquitoes must change their diet to consume more nectar and sugary food in order to double their weight before hibernating in the fall. They do this by stopping to feed on blood and instead start feeding on nectar and even rotting fruits. By spring, they can resume their normal diet and continue feeding.

More on mosquitoes: Fluid feedersand hematophagy, feeding on blood.

Other flies: Mosquitoes are flies but what do other flies eat?


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