A typical mosquito has long legs, a segmented body, and a tube called a proboscis that it uses to extract blood from its prey. By Fir0002/Flagstaffotos
If you have ever spent time in an area where mosquitoes live, you are probably familiar with what this insect looks like, the buzzing sound it makes as it flies, and what it eats: your blood! Around 165 species of mosquitoes live in North America, and they can be found from the southern tip of Mexico to the Arctic Circle and beyond, wherever there is enough water to support them.
Not all mosquitoes bite humans: male mosquitoes do not bite at all, but instead eat nectar from flowers. Females need blood to survive and reproduce. Some species only get their blood meals from frogs, while others specialize in birds, and still others feed on mammals, including humans.
Mosquitoes live near water because water is essential to their life cycle. After a female mosquito mates, she lays eggs in or near the water. They eggs may hatch right away, or they may lay dormant for years until the conditions are just right for them to hatch. When the eggs hatch, larvae emerge and live in the water for two to fourteen days. When they are ready to leave the water they hatch again into flying insects and start looking for food.
Mosquitoes find their food by sensing carbon dioxide, a gas that humans and many other animals naturally produce when we breathe. Once they have located a food source, they land and start to bite. While biting, mosquitoes insert chemicals into the blood stream that make the blood flow more freely and make their host less likely to feel the bite. After they have eaten a blood meal and flown away, the chemicals they leave behind may make the skin around the bite irritated and itchy. After eating, the female mates and lays eggs, and the life cycle begins again.
To avoid these pesky critters, cover exposed skin with clothing and try not to be outside in the early morning and late evening, when mosquitoes are most active.
Mosquito larvae live on the surface of a stagnant pond until they are ready to hatch into insect form. By Mary Hollinger, NOAA/NESDIS/NODC (ret.).
This mosquito was successful in its search for a blood meal. By Mathias Krumbholz
For references, see the above link plus:
Borror, Donald J. and Richard E. White. A Field Guide to Insects: America North of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin Company: Boston, 1970. Pp. 266-267.
Meyer, Nathan J. et al. North Woods, Great Lakes: Linnaeus List Field Guide. University of Minnesota Extension Store: Minneapolis, MN, 2010. P. 16.
Stensaas, Mark. Canoe Country Wildlife: A Field Guide to the North Woods and Boundary Waters. Pfeifer-Hamilton: Duluth, MN, 1993. Pp. 182-185.