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What do Mosquitoes eat? Everything about Mosquitoes feeding habits

Once we heard the word of mosquito the first thing, we would imagine is the set of annoying, blood-sucking creatures, just like vampires. It is true that mosquitoes suck blood from humans and animals. Does that really mean that the mosquitoes are feed only on blood? What is their main food source?  Let’s discuss this with more details and frequently asked questions.

You may be wondered to hear that the mosquitoes are primarily Vegetarians. when they mature and reach adulthood, their food preferences are changed depending on gender (whether they are male or female).

What do adult mosquitoes eat?

Similar to other insects like Bees, Stings, and Butterflies, Mosquitoes also have a nutritional requirement of carbohydrates and they get it in the form of sugar from various sources.

Both adult male and female mosquitoes feed on nectar (from fruits and flowers), honeydew, and other surgery juices of plants to get fulfill the nutrients that they need to live. This sweet snack gives them the energy to fly, live, find a mate, and reproduce. Different species feed on different plants.

Female mosquitoes need more energy than males as they live more than males and need to do the breeding. Some species hibernate for months during the winter and eat more sugar to store more energy before hibernation.

Usually, plants produce nectar to attract pollinating animals. As adult mosquitos feed on nectar, they naturally become plant pollinators.

Do adult mosquitoes entirely feed on blood?

Female mosquito drinking blood (Image by Tofs)

Many people think blood is the only source of food for all mosquitoes. Actually, blood is a part of their diet. Not the only food source.

Once the female mosquitoes reached adulthood, they require protein, iron, and lipid for their reproduction process. Blood contains a certain protein that is essential to mature and develop their eggs and which make female mosquitoes to seek warm blood.

Once laid a batch of eggs, she will go for another blood meal before laying her next batch of eggs. She can repeat this process from 3 to 10 times during the life span.

In that sense, we can conclude that blood is only required for the reproduction and survival of mosquitoes. Even female mosquitoes can get some energy from blood meal, which is not enough to live. So, they need to seek other sugary food sources to get the energy that she needs.

Do mosquitoes only drink human blood?

Generally, female mosquitoes do not bother what is the source is. They just need blood and they get it from animals as well, without depending on humans. The source is solely depending on the condition and competition.

There are some opinions such, mosquitoes prefer human blood over animal blood for the taste. But this is not a scientifically proven fact.

Apart from humans, generally, mosquitoes will drink blood from

  • Livestock
  • Domestic animals such as cats, dogs, rabbits (despite their heavy fur)
  • Mammals, such as raccoons
  • Amphibians, such as frogs
  • Reptiles, such as snakes, lizards
  • Birds, such as crows, jays, robins, sparrows
  • Waterfowl, such as ducks, geese, herons
Mosquitoes drink blood from frogs (Image by Irene Wirsing)

They always prefer to choose a target which they can penetrate easily with their proboscis. The proboscis is a thing and long mouthpiece that she used to pierce through and suck the blood out from the host, just like ectoparasites. A special chemical found in mosquito saliva, soften the skin surface to make it easy to penetrate. The saliva makes the skin itchy after a mosquito bite.

In some articles, it has been mentioned that there are some mosquitoes who do not bite humans and only feed on the blood of other animals. But this is not a proven fact.

How adult mosquitoes digest their food?

Once the mosquitoes took their meal using the Proboscis, the digestion of the food happens in a sac called as foregut. In adult mosquitoes, it has two parts as anterior midgut (AMG) and posterior midgut (PMG). The front section (AMG) is for sugar digestion and absorption. The nectar will be digested thereby a special enzyme and energy are released. The rear section (PMG) is an expandable sac and involved in blood digestion (especially for females), water regulation, digestive enzyme synthesis, and nutrient absorption. When the female drank blood, it goes directly to the rear midgut (PMG) and the protein is digested there. As the rear midgut is expandable, a female can hold a full meal at a time[1].

Why are mosquitoes attracted to humans to drink blood?

Mosquitoes are able to sense the Carbon Dioxide that we exhale. Also, they can sense mammals based on body temperature. Our bodies produce Lactic acid when we sweat, and that scent is also sensed by mosquitoes. All these things signal mosquitoes that food is near and make it easy to find us.

Our genetics decided how much Carbon Dioxide and Lactose a person emits. That is the reason for some people who are more attractive to mosquitoes than others.

The real reason behind mosquitoes tend to more attractive towards humans is just because the humans appear often, exhales more CO2 than other animals, and are the easiest target for them[2].

Among humans, the people with O blood group, breath heavily, have skin bacteria, have high body heat, and pregnant women are more preferred by mosquitoes[3][4].

Do male mosquitoes drink blood at all?

A male mosquito resting on a leave (Image by Pavel Hájek)

Male mosquitoes do not feed on blood, only female mosquitoes do.

Simply male mosquitoes do not bite and drink blood as they do not lay eggs. Also, male mosquitoes do not have specific mouthparts to penetrate the human or animal skin toward the blood vessels. In that case, they cannot drink blood even they wanted to do so.

As per a study carried on using Culex quinquefasciatus male mosquitoes, it was found out that the survival of blood-fed mosquitoes reduced to a just few days compared to mosquitoes only fed on sugar. This may be due to the anatomy of male mosquitoes is not adapted to digest blood or the blood may be toxic to them[5].

What do mosquito eggs eat?

Simply the developing creature inside the egg doesn’t eat anything at all. It takes all the nourishment that it needs from the yolk and other substances inside the egg. That all nourishment is supplied from the female mosquito who had laid the eggs.

What do mosquito larvae eat?

Eggs may be laid on a water surface, near water, or on a dried surface. In order to go to their next stage of life, the eggs should be contacted with water. Once the requirement is met, the mosquitoes enter into larvae hatched from eggs. From here onwards they live their life just under the water surface until they become adults.

The wiggling larvae need food to develop and they feed on microorganisms such as algae, fungus, bacteria, etc. grown in stagnant water. Those are the only thing that a mosquito in the larvae stage can digest. If these microscopic organic particles are not present in the water or the water surface is moving or with too many currents, there is a good probability of larvae getting starve and die.

What does mosquito pupa eat?

Mosquitoes leave the larvae stage through molts and reach to Pupae stage. Here they shed their skins a few more times and slowly transform into maturity.

During the pupae stage, mosquitoes need very little nutrition and do not feed at all. All the fuel needs to spend this stage is stored from the nutrition acquired during the larvae stage.

Do all mosquito species need blood to reproduce?

As we know, female mosquitoes need blood to mature their eggs. Few researchers have found that there are mosquito species that do not require blood to produce eggs. As per them, both male and female of the Toxorhynchites Theobaldi mosquitoes entirely feed on sugary diets. Female Toxorhynchites mosquitoes develop their eggs without blood-feeding and only needing carbohydrates[6][7][8][9][10][11].

Summing things up….

The food behaviors of mosquitoes are quite interesting as to how it changes in each stage of their life cycle and depending on gender. It’s actually not right to say that mosquitoes are only dependent on blood. They are vegetarians, but they have to go for blood meals for the survival of their next generation.

Hope you had a good read about what and how do mosquitoes eat. Please be feel free to comment down on what else do you prefer to know about mosquitoes. There are many informative articles available on this web site and surf around check for my other articles as well.  

Do you know about the predators of mosquitoes? Read here about that. You can get to know everything about mosquito’s lifespan from here. There are other articles on plants that have natural mosquito-repelling abilities and FAQs regarding them.

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