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How Do Mosquitoes Survive Winter?

a group of mosquitoes flying around in the spring

Sometimes, it seems like mosquitoes can live forever and are indestructible. It’s easy to think that way when they are buzzing about in the spring, summer and early fall, snacking on people and pets at will. However, the pesky pests actually do have a finite life and don’t thrive in certain conditions.

Mosquitoes are insects, and insects are cold-blooded, meaning they cannot regulate their body temperature. That means they take their warmth from their surroundings, and they do not do well as the mercury drops.

They live their best life when air temperatures are around 80 degrees, so they are active all year in tropical climates. In areas where there is more of a change in temperatures throughout the year, mosquitoes struggle. At 60 degrees, the insects start to become lethargic, and at 50 degrees, they can’t function. However, mosquitoes don’t just die when the air turns bitter cold.

Mosquito Survival Tactics

When low temperatures hit, mosquitoes go into hibernation. Some species’ adult females will mate in the fall and then find a warmer place to live in logs or basements or other places that retain a little more heat. They stay in a state of torpor, or reduced body temperature and movement, until spring. These are the critters you might see flying around, looking for food, on a warm January or February day.

These females come out of their hibernation, consume the blood of humans or animals and then lay eggs that will become the next group of adult mosquitoes.

Other types of mosquitoes lay eggs in late summer and hibernate as embryos through winter. These eggs are generally tucked under ice and then hatch in the spring as the water gets warmer.

Still other mosquitoes spend their winter as larvae, nestled in swampy mud. Once the weather turns warmer, this group of mosquito larvae starts to eat, complete their growth cycle and then become adults.

All of the varieties of mosquitoes that winter in an incomplete stage of development do so in what is called diapause, a process that pauses their development in cold temperatures and starts up again when it starts to warm up.

In general, the insect lays eggs in groups or singly on the surface of stagnant water. The eggs can be ready to hatch within a couple of days or weeks, and they hatch in the water.

Their next stage is moving from an egg to a larva. This stage can last for 5 days, and larvae are aquatic. Once the mosquitoes have completed the larval stage, they become pupae, and that stage lasts just 2 to 3 days, at which time the insects turn into adult mosquitoes. Their life cycle from egg to adult is relatively short.

mosquito eggs in water

How Many Eggs Do Mosquitoes Lay?

“Culex” mosquitoes usually lay their eggs at night, over several nights, making sure they are stuck together to form a sort of raft that contains anywhere from 100 to 300 eggs. That sounds like a lot, but the actual size of such a raft is only about one-quarter of an inch long and one-eighth of an inch wide in total. A female might lay a full raft every three nights during its life cycle.

Other mosquito varieties lay eggs one at a time on the water’s surface or, for other types, on damp soil. Some types’ eggs won’t hatch unless they are completely dry, and others need to be soaked with water to transform. In general, a mosquito will lay 100 eggs at a time

Mosquitoes don’t just lay eggs and grow up in lakes and rivers. Any water, fresh or stagnant, will do. If you are noticing an increase in mosquito activity around or near your home, take a look around your yard.

How To Prevent Mosquito Breeding

Do you have standing water? Anything that holds water can become a mosquito nursery: flower pots, watering cans, pounds, pools, clogged gutters and ditches, just to name a few spots. If possible, mosquitoes love to lay their eggs in water with grass or weeds to shelter the eggs from the wind.

It is very important to clear out any standing water after a heavy rain or if your sprinkler or septic system create puddles throughout your yard. It doesn’t take much for mosquitoes to make themselves at home.

A licensed pest professional can quickly find the “hot spots” around the outside of your home where mosquitoes are multiplying and growing from eggs to adults, ready to feed on you, your family and your pets. The pest pro can give you some great ideas on how to get rid of the pesky insects and keep them from coming back.

Remember: Mosquitoes need food, water and a place to live in order to survive and thrive. If you take away any part of that trio, you can get rid of the insects. We talked about getting rid of any excess water. But sometimes, you can’t dump the water.

In such cases, look for a larvicide that is bacterium-based. These make proteins that are toxic to certain larvae but safe for other insects and mammals. Such products work for about 30 days. Talk to a licensed pest control pro about what will work best for your pond or other water source that you would like to keep—without the mosquitoes.

a back patio

What Repels Mosquitoes?

Over the years, people have tried just about everything to keep these flying, biting menaces away from their skin and that of their pets. Some have tried burning things like coconut shells, coffee or cow manure to push away the critters.

Others take an inside-out approach, eating or drinking everything from bananas to gin and tonic. Or they wipe dryer sheets, mouthwash or cloves on their skin, hoping to deter mosquitoes with an unpleasant scent. Sadly, these things do not work.

Tests have shown that commercial products containing a good amount of the chemical DEET are effective at keeping mosquitoes away for a fairly long period of time. DEET is the short version of N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide, which is the active ingredient in many insect repellents. Though it is a chemical, it has been thoroughly tested and deemed safe to use. After all, it has been around since the 1950s!

If you don’t want to use a DEET-based product, look for something that uses as its active ingredient either picaridin and IR 3535. Some scientists believe that picaridin does an even better job that DEET does at keeping mosquitoes away longer!

Looking for something more natural? The oil of lemon eucalyptus, also called PMD, is a natural oil that comes from the leaves and twigs of a gum eucalyptus plant, which smells like lemons. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention backs this remedy! In fact, research has shown that a product with oil of lemon eucalyptus works just about as well as one with DEET.

Stay away from citronella-based products that claim to repel mosquitoes. Likewise for “mosquito-repelling” wristbands, bracelets and B1 skin patches. None of these has been proven to work, despite testing.

Whatever you choose to use in your battle against mosquitoes, follow product directions for safe use. Apply only as often as recommended, and of course, keep it away from your eyes and mouth. If you don’t want to search for something that works for you by trial and error, call a pest professional. They know not only about how to get rid of mosquitoes, but also how you can keep those that remain from dining on your and your loved ones.

And remember: Just because mosquitoes might be resting in the winter doesn’t mean you should ease up on your prevention habits! Even during colder months, it’s a smart idea to bring in a licensed pest professional to inspect your property for standing water from melting ice and snow. It just takes a couple of warmer winter days for mosquitoes to wake up and start biting. And keep your cabinets stocked with products that you know and trust, just in case.

ABC Can Reduce Mosquito Populations Around Your Property

If you want relief from mosquitoes, contact ABC Home & Commercial Services. We offer a variety of mosquito control options, including an option that prevents mosquitoes from breeding. That way, you can be less concerned when mosquito season in Texas starts.

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