General Structure & Life Cycle: The mosquito has four distinct stages in its life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Eggs are laid either on the water surface, in moist soil or on the sides of objects that are subject to flooding. Larvae and pupae both occur in water, while adults are free flying insects.
Eggs of permanent water breeders are deposited on the water surface, singularly or in rafts, and normally hatch in 1-3 days depending on temperature. Most flood water species deposit their eggs singularly on moist soil or other wet substrates, while some lay their eggs on the sides of objects that will be subject to flooding. Eggs of floodwater species must then dry and will display a wide variation in incubation periods from several days to a year or more depending on the species and the season. Each female mosquito will produce between 150-250 eggs per laying and may have several layings in its lifetime.
The Larvae (wrigglers) of all mosquitoes live on water feeding on small microscopic organisms. They have 4 developmental periods or instars. At the end of each instar, the larva sheds its skin by a process call molting. Mosquito larvae have three body regions -- the head, thorax and abdomen. The brushy mouthparts on the underside of the head vibrate rapidly to sweep in small food particles.
After the 4th larva stage, a Pupa is formed. It is very different in both shape and appearance than the larva, but also requires water for continued development. Unlike most other insect pupa, the mosquito pupa is very active. Feeding does not take place during the pupa stage with the transition to a free flying adult taking from 1 to several days depending on temperature and species.
The Adult mosquito is entirely terrestrial, capable of flight and feeds mostly on animal blood and nectar. All parts of the body are covered to some degree with coarse hairs or scales which contribute to various color patterns. These patterns are often useful for identification to species. The transition from egg hatch to flying adult can be as fast as 4 days and as long as several weeks, with the average being about 6-8 days during the warmer months. Once on the wing, many are strong fliers capable of moving upwards of 25 miles in a night. The males only function is for reproduction, while only the females bite because they need blood for the proper nourishment and development of her eggs.