The Secret Lives of Mosquitoes and Flies

Mosquitos

Indoor Nuisance

Mosquitoes

Adult Males and Females

Female mosquitoes are usually larger than males. Females have fine threadlike antennae with few hairs, whereas males have bushy antennae. Eggs of some mosquitoes float on the water in rafts. Adults have delicate legs, a long proboscis and one pair of transparent wings.
There is a new breed of mosquito called Psorophora ciliata, or Gallinipper mosquitoes.  They have half inch long bodies and the same black-white color pattern of the more common Asian Tiger Mosquito with a wingspan of 6-7 millimeters. Mega-mosquito bites hurt much more than usual mosquito bites, it is similar to a wasp sting according to the experts, who say the insects can even bite through clothing.
 

Immatures (different stages)

Mosquitoes are holometabolous insects and therefore grow through an egg, larva, pupa to adult stage. The larvae and pupae are aquatic, the adults are free flying. At 80° F the larva goes through four larval instars in about 4 days before pupating. The pupa takes three days before the adult emerges. Adult females live several weeks if given a source of sugar. Males usually live less than a week.
mosquito

 

Natural History

Food

Larvae eat many things. They graze over rocks and plant material removing growing algae and bacteria. They will filter feed from polluted water, but the water in which they live must never be allowed to develop a scum as they must be able to contact the air through the siphon at the end of the abdomen. Both male and female adults feed on nectar. Females also feed on blood which is needed to produce eggs. Some species can produce eggs without a blood meal. Males do not feed on blood.

Habitat

Larvae and pupae live in water, usually still water. They do not survive well in rushing streams or badly polluted water. Adults hide in vegetation near water or in cool, damp places. Many species fly in search of blood meals in the evening.

Predators

Many fish and predatory aquatic insects eat larvae and pupae. Bats, birds and spiders eat flying adults.

Interesting Behaviors

Watching the feeding behavior of larvae is instructive. Larvae are such effective filter feeders that they can clean polluted water. Adult females respond to cues produced by warm-blooded animals.

 

Impact on the Ecosystem

Positive

Mosquito larvae are important food for fish and other predatory aquatic animals. Adult mosquitoes are also important food for birds, bats and other arthropods, including dragonflies and spiders.

Negative

Mosquitoes transmit pathogens that cause some of the worst diseases known, including malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever and encephalitis. However, mosquitoes only transmit the pathogens. In most cases, they must feed on someone with the disease to be able to transmit it to another person. Adult mosquitoes reared from larvae collected from ponds seldom carry pathogens. Do not let field caught mosquitoes feed on your hand.
 
Excerpt from a paper contained in the Center for Insect Science Education Outreach. The University of Arizona


Flies, The Indoor and Outdoor Nuisance

Adult Males and Females

Males and females are hard to distinguish. Females are usually larger and can extend the tip of the abdomen to form an ovipositor which is used to lay eggs. Sometimes males have enlarged eyes which meet on top of the head.

Immatures (different stages)

Flies are holometabolous, therefore they have four distinct morphological stages; egg, larva (maggot), pupa and adult. After hatching from the egg, larvae molt twice as they grow. Molting of maggots is difficult to see. Larvae are maggots with a legless soft body except for the dark mouth hooks. Pupae are dark, and look like a small barrel.

 

Natural History

Food

Larvae feed on decaying meat and feces. Adult flies feed on sugary food of any kind, including nectar and rotting fruit.

Habitat

Flies live in garbage and wherever animal feces are available. Dead animals attract flies within hours after death. Most flies are diurnal (active during the day rather than at night).

Predators

Many birds, bats, spiders, and insects such as dragonflies eat the adults. Predatory and parasitic insects eat the larvae.

Interesting Behaviors

  • The eyes of flies are among the most complex in the insect world. They are compound eyes with many individual facets, each representing a separate light-detecting unit. The light reflected from the eye of a horsefly can form a rainbow.

  • Flies taste, smell, and feel with the hairs that cover their bodies. The hairs on the fly's mouth parts and feet are used for tasting. Flies taste what they walk on. If they walk onto something tasty, they put down their mouth and taste it again.

  • Flies use other hairs to tell them when they touch something. These hairs bend when touched.

  • The eyes of a fly do not have eyelids, so flies rub their eyes with their feet to keep them clean. 

  • A fly cleans itself constantly.

  • Flies walk on smooth surfaces using sticky soft pads that act like glue. This allows them to walk on vertical glass surfaces and upside down.

 

Impact on the Ecosystem

Positive

Flies and other insects, such as burying beetles, are very important in consuming and eliminating dead bodies of animals. Flies are also essential in the conversion of feces and decaying vegetation to soil. Flies serve as prey to many other animals. Some flies aid in pollination.

Negative

Because of their habits of being attracted to feces and decaying meat, flies have been implicated in transmission of disease such as dysentery, typhoid fever, and cholera.
 
Excerpt from a paper contained in the Center for Insect Science Education Outreach. The University of Arizona