West Nile Virus Home > Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are insects that can spread certain diseases to humans through their bites. Some of these diseases include West Nile virus, malaria, and yellow fever. Not only can mosquitoes carry diseases that affect humans, but they also can transmit diseases and parasites to dogs and horses. Controlling them, and exposure to diseases they may carry, can involve chemical and nonchemical methods. Repellents containing DEET or picaridin can help reduce your exposure.

What Are Mosquitoes?

Almost everyone has had the unpleasant experience of being bitten by a mosquito. Mosquito bites can cause severe skin irritation through an allergic reaction to the mosquito's saliva -- this is what causes the red bump and itching; however, a more serious consequence of some mosquito bites may be transmission of certain serious diseases.
 
Not only can mosquitoes carry diseases that affect humans, but they also can transmit several diseases and parasites to dogs and horses. These include dog heart worms, eastern equine encephalitis, and West Nile virus.
 

Life Cycle of Mosquitoes

There are about 200 different species of mosquitoes in the United States, all of which live in specific habitats, exhibit unique behaviors, and bite different types of animals. Despite these differences, they all share some common traits, such as a four-stage life cycle.
 
In short, the four stages of the life cycle are:
 
  • Egg -- hatches when exposed to water
  • Larva -- (plural -- larvae) lives in the water; molts several times; most species surface to breathe air
  • Pupa -- (plural -- pupae) does not feed; stage just prior to emerging as adult
  • Adult -- flies short time after emerging and after its body parts have hardened.
     
(Click Mosquito Life Cycle for more information on this topic.)
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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