Mosquitoes are in the Family Culicidae and the Order Diptera (flies). As such, they undergo complete metamorphosis and go through four distinct life stages, similar to a butterfly, for example.
The four stages in the mosquito life cycle are egg, larva, pupa, and adult.
- Eggs are laid on the surface of standing water or in moist soil next to receding floodwater habitats.
- Larvae hatch from the eggs and must develop in standing water. They grow to approximately 1 cm in length and are often called “wrigglers” due to the swimming action they display when disturbed. Larvae go through four growth stages called instars. They feed on organic matter by filtering the water and they must come to the surface of the water to breath. You will often see them attached to the surface by their breathing tube. When a shadow passes over them, or they sense movement, they will quickly swim away from the surface.
- At the end of the fourth instar, the larvae transform into a pupae which must also come to the water’s surface to breath, but at this point they do not feed. Mosquitoes in their pupal stage are often called “tumblers” as they have a rolling kind of swim action.
- The adult male mosquitoes emerge first from the pupae (about 2 days earlier than the females), and form a cloud over the standing water called a “nuptial cloud.” They wait for females to emerge and as each female takes flight, she enters the cloud and mates with a waiting male. The female only mates once in her life and holds the sperm to fertilize all the eggs she will lay in her lifetime. Female mosquitoes require a blood meal in order to mature a new batch of eggs, and they will bite before laying each batch. Male mosquitoes do not bite; instead, they feed on flower pollens.