Mosquitoes are found all over the world, except in Antarctica. These two-winged insects belong to the order Diptera. Members of the genera Anopheles, Culex, and Aedes are most commonly responsible for the bites in humans. There are approximately 170 species of mosquitoes in North America alone.
Mosquitoes require an environment of standing water. As a group, they have adapted to complete their life cycle in diverse aquatic habitats, including freshwater, saltwater marshes, brackish water, or water found in containers, old tires, or tree holes.
The life cycle of the mosquito has four stages. The female mosquito lays her eggs, up to several hundred at a time, on the surface of the water or in an area subject to flooding. Unhatched eggs of some species can withstand weeks to months of desiccation, remaining viable until the right conditions for hatching occur. The eggs of most species hatch within 48 hours, and the larvae feed on organic matter in the water for about a week until they change into pupae. The pupae live at the surface of the water for 1 to 4 days before metamorphosing into adult mosquitoes.
Only female mosquitoes bite. Male mosquitoes feed primarily on flower nectar, whereas female mosquitoes require a blood meal to produce eggs. They usually feed every 3 to 4 days. In a single feeding, a female mosquito typically consumes more than its own weight in blood. Certain species of mosquitoes prefer to feed at twilight or nighttime, while other bite mostly during the day.