Mosquitoes are flying, biting insects well known for the annoying whine of their flight and the itchy bites they leave behind. Mostly just a nuisance, some species in New York also can transmit the pathogens that cause Eastern equine encephalitis and West Nile virus. Only females take a blood meal for the energy to create eggs, but both females and males feed on flower nectar, providing some pollinator services.
Human health concern
Three mosquito groups are a human health concern in New York: Culex, Aedes, and Anopheles. Below are common examples from each group of mosquitoes.
People can also acquire pathogens from mosquitoes while traveling in other parts of the world.
Feeds: Dusk, night, dawn
Breeds: in small pools of stagnant water
Associated Pathogens: West Nile virus • Dog heartworm
Breeds: Containers, flooded areas
Associated Pathogens: Eastern equine encephalitis • Zika • Dog heartworm
Feeds: night, dawn
Breeds: in fresh and brackish water
Associated Pathogens: Dog heartworm •
What Do Mosquitoes Look Like?
Known for their annoying whine, these small (less than 0.5 inch) delicate insects get around on two clear wings. Except for the stripes on the ‘tiger’ mosquito, it is difficult to distinguish between the different types without a microscope. Some prefer different ecosystems, are active at different times of the day, and can carry disease-causing pathogens. Depending on species, the worm-like larvae can be found in different types of water bodies (including containers such as bottle caps) and are notable by their wriggling motion.
These mosquitoes breed in permanent fresh and brackish waters, with eggs laid on the water’s surface. Anopheles mosquitoes transmit the parasite that causes malaria. Although malaria does not normally occur in New York, there have been some rare occurrences downstate.
When they feed: Dusk, night, dawn
Where they breed: Small pools of stagnant water
Should I Worry About Mosquitoes?
Mosquito-borne illnesses have plagued humans throughout history. Modern vector control and monitoring programs have greatly reduced the incidence of yellow fever, malaria, and encephalitis viruses throughout the United States. Eastern equine encephalitis and West Nile encephalitis remain significant diseases that afflict people in New York. Management includes intense surveillance for mosquito outbreaks and routine monitoring for diseases. Much more common is skin irritation caused by scratching, especially for those most sensitive or seemingly more attractive to these
Why Do I Have Mosquitoes in My Yard?
Mosquito larvae, the immature state, develop in water. Therefore, female mosquitoes lay their eggs in, on, or near areas where water will pool. If you live near a swamp or other area with natural standing water, your yard will be prone to these pests. However, container-breeding mosquitoes (Aedes) can use smaller sources of water to reproduce, including old tires, unused plant pots, buckets, gutters and tarps.
Common house mosquito – Culex pipiens
Culex mosquitoes are persistent biters that feed at dusk, night, and dawn. Culex mosquitoes prefer birds as hosts, but because they make their way into homes, they bite humans and can transmit pathogens that cause encephalitis. These mosquitoes breed in small pools of stagnant water that contain organic debris, and do not move far from breeding sites. The Northern house mosquito, Culex pipiens, are an important mosquito pest in urban and suburban areas. It matures from egg to adult in 7 days; adults generally live 10–60 days
Asian tiger mosquito – Aedes albopictus
An invasive species originally from Asia, this Aedes mosquitoes is an aggressive and painful biter that feeds during daylight. These mosquitoes breed in containers, needing only ¼” of water to complete their life cycle. Most often found in tropical and sub-tropical locations, it can be found in downstate New York. It is suspected that cold winters are keeping this species from surviving farther north.
Salt marsh mosquito – Aedes sollicitans
As the name implies, this mosquito is found in coastal areas. Aedes mosquitoes are aggressive and painful biters that feed during daylight and prefer human blood. Female mosquitoes will fly several miles from breeding sites (areas that flood), but usually do not enter buildings. Because these mosquitoes are associated with naturally occurring floodwaters, residents need only to be aware of outbreaks, then take measures to avoid being bitten.