Common Household Pests – Mosquitoes

We’ve all been there, standing outside on a warm summer evening enjoying the last bits of sunlight of a friend’s barbeque or gearing up for a bonfire when you feel a sharp sting on your arm. You look down and see it, a small mosquito sticking its sinister little proboscis into your skin. Without thinking twice you reach out your other hand and squash the mosquito flat.

Even if you’re the type who relocates spiders out to the garden or catches mice live to move outside, you don’t think about squishing that little bugger mid-bloodsuck. Why is it that even when we feel sympathy for other pests, we retain such vicious loathing for mosquitoes? It could be because their attacks are much more personal, not just invading our space or tampering with the safety of our food, but sucking the very blood from our bodies. Adding insult to injury, not only do they leave behind itchy bumps that drive us insane, but they risk spreading horrible and potentially deadly diseases.

Mosquitoes are host to countless diseases, from malaria to West Nile virus and even to dog heartworm. As of late, the Zika virus has gained considerable notoriety as it slowly becomes more prevalent and has been shown to cause serious birth defects when it infects pregnant women.

Below is a profile of the common house mosquito and ways to prevent this pest from infesting your property.

Identification
  • House mosquitoes are brown with white scales on their abdomen. They have no other distinctive markings on their legs or proboscis, unlike other species of mosquitoes. At approximately 1/4” long, they are considered medium sized mosquitoes.
Behavior
  • House mosquitoes are sanguivores and feed on the blood of warm-blooded animals, primarily birds but will feed on humans and other mammals as necessary.
  • They will fly up to 14 miles in search of a blood meal, although they typically don’t travel more than 1/2 mile from the breeding sites.
  • When female mosquitoes feed they insert their proboscis into their host animal’s skin.
  • Mosquitoes eat an average of two and a half times her body weight.
  • Male mosquitoes do not feed on blood. Their probosci are too small to pierce an animal’s skin. Instead they feed on pollen and plant nectar.
Habitat
  • The first three life stages of mosquitoes occur in water.
  • Northern house mosquitoes prefer fresh water with a high content of organic matter. This species often breeds in standing water in artificial containers like catch basins, storm drains, ditches, wastewater treatment plant effluent, culverts, rain barrels and any other space allowed to collect standing water.
  • Females go through an overwintering period where they seek refuge in culverts, basements or caves.
Life Cycle

(Gradual or Incomplete Metamorphosis)

  • Breed in water. Females will lay 50-400 eggs, called a raft, at a time on the top of the water.
  • Females can lay several rafts throughout their lifetime. These eggs hatch in 1 to 2 days, although this is temperature dependent. Eggs require water to hatch, as do the next two life stages.
  • Mosquito larvae go through 4 larval instars, which take at least 4 days.
  • After the 4th instar, the mosquito molts into a pupa.
  • At the end of the pupal stage, the pupal skin opens and the adult emerges.
  • From egg to adult takes about 8-10 days on average, but in colder temperatures it can take several weeks.
  • The lifespan of the mosquito is not well known. Most males die off a few days after breeding. Females typically live a few months, overwintering, or hibernating, in protected areas.
Seasonality
  • San Francisco – Fall, September through November
Favorable Conditions
  • Standing water
  • Uncut lawns
  • Clutter
  • Overwatered plants
Health
  • Considered one of the greatest health threats to humans because of their ability to spread disease.
Concerns
  • Mosquitoes are known vectors of malaria, encephalitis, yellow fever and dengue.
  • The primary mosquito borne health concern in the San Francisco Bay Area is West Nile Virus.
Signs of an infestation
  • Live mosquitoes
  • Larvae in standing water

What you can do to prevent mosquitoes on your property

  • Inspect your property for standing water
  • Outdoor inspection - Puddles, swimming/wading pools, tires, poorly irrigated landscape, bird baths, junk piles, roof gutters, storm drains, outdoor furniture, abandoned cars
  • Indoor Inspection - flower vase, plant saucers, pottery, water bottles, shower/sink drains, buckets, pet water dishes, dishwashers, undisturbed toilets
  • Dump standing water weekly or every few days - If the water cannot be removed be sure to keep the water circulating and/or treated
  • Cut your lawn regularly and keep weeds away
  • Remove any clutter or trash on your property
  • Don’t overwater your lawn or plants
  • Inspect all windows and doors to make sure screens are in good condition - Add screens if there aren’t any already
  • Seal all gaps around the home that could give mosquitoes access