• Mosquitoes: Bad news biters

    From the tortuous buzzing that puts you on alert to stealth biters that leave an insatiable itch as a calling card, mosquitoes are a pain! Mosquitoes may not live on pets or humans, but they sure do bite. Bites are not only annoying, but they transmit disease and parasites that are dangerous for dogs, cats and other pets.

    Understanding how mosquitoes pick their prey, things that put your dog or cat at risk of a mosquito bite, what helps populations grow so fast, and what you can do to prevent it are key to keeping your pet and family safe and healthy.

    How mosquitoes grow:
    Egg, larvae, pupae, adult — the life cycle of a mosquito moves fast. So you’ll want to be ready to protect your dog or cat from a bite.
    More mosquitoes than you know:
    Knowing where to look and what to do can help prevent mosquito bites on dogs and cats.
    Fast facts about mosquitoes:
    Find out the facts to reduce their populations and keep them from making your dog or cat a victim of the diseases and parasites they carry.

    How mosquitoes grow

    Although there are thousands of mosquito species around the world, there are many characteristics they have in common. This includes living in shallow water or moist soil, a preference for warm, humid climates and the need to have a blood meal before they can lay eggs.

    Mosquitoes also share a life cycle that has four life stages, developing very rapidly from egg to adult in just days! And most often, those days that they’re alive, happen to coincide with the spring, summer and early fall weather that your dog and cat enjoy most.

    The Eggs. Mosquitoes lay their eggs one at a time, leaving from 40 to 400 tiny white eggs. The eggs float on the surface of water, either alone or connected as “rafts.” Mosquito eggs hatch into larvae within 48 hours.

    Mosquito life cycle

    The Larvae. The larvae live in water. Some stay just beneath the surface where they’re able to breathe through air tubes that they poke above the surface. Some must stay closer to the surface to breathe and others attach to plants for air. Mosquito larvae eat particles of organic matter and microorganisms. They shed their skin four times, growing after each molting — as large as ¼ inch. Some can be seen floating and after about 10 days, they become pupae.

    The Pupae. Mosquito pupae do not feed, but simply rest and grow to adult status, making this stage the naptime of mosquito development. When the process is complete after about two days, the skin splits and out comes an adult mosquito.

    The Adults. The newly emerged adult mosquito rests on the surface of the water for a short time. Once it dries and hardens, it is ready to fly. After a couple of days, the adult mosquito is ready for mating and a blood meal — that is necessary to lay eggs. Good news to the mosquito, bad news for people and pets!

    Types of mosquitoes

    All mosquitoes are not created equal. In fact, there are more than 2,700 species around the globe and more than 170 in the U.S.! Although all of them bite (usually in the early morning and early evening), spread disease and ruin picnics, they are usually divided into three groups. Each type of mosquito lives in a different habitat and requires different methods of prevention. The three mosquito categories

    Aedes. These mosquitoes are also called “floodwater mosquitoes” because flooding is essential for their eggs to hatch. They can fly long distances and like to attack mammals, especially humans, spreading yellow fever, dengue and encephalitis. So that’s lucky for dogs, cats and other pets.

    Culex. These are the kind of mosquitoes you find in stagnant or polluted water such as in plant pots, fishing ponds and gutters. The good news is that they are weak flyers and only live a few weeks. The bad news is that their bite is painful. These are the mosquitoes that spread disease to your dog and cat through their bite. They carry encephalitis, filariasis and West Nile virus.

    Anopholes. These flying menaces prefer bodies of permanent fresh water with aquatic plant life. Among this group is the infamous malaria mosquito that spreads malaria to humans. They also transmit filariasis and encephalitis.

    Fast facts on mosquitoes

    Unlike ticks and fleas that want your dog or cat to play host for days at a time, mosquitoes prefer to dine and dash. Taking the blood they need and then heading off to lay eggs that will breed more of their kind. They breed so quickly — often within just a few weeks — that they quickly become a problem.

    Size and shape. Measuring in from 1/8 to ¾ inches, mosquitoes have six legs and wings. Different mosquito types prefer different hosts — from people and mammals to dogs and cats, cattle and horses, birds, reptiles and frogs.

    Mobility. Mosquitoes fly from about 1-1.5 miles per hour. Some species will fly long distances for the right habitat, most mosquitoes live their entire lifecycle close in the same area.

    Food. Both male and female mosquitoes feed on nectar and other plant sugars. However, female mosquitoes need blood as a source of protein for their eggs. They find their prey through various cues such as odors, heat and carbon dioxide.

    Infestations. All mosquitoes need water to breed and are a monumental problem during wet springs and summers or in areas that are prone to standing water. The area of standing water doesn’t have to be large — it can be a flowerpot dish, plastic coverings over furniture and sand boxes, low-lying areas, birdbaths and even dog and cat dishes left outside.

    Bites. To get at the blood they seek, the female mosquito bites with the long proboscis, stabbing two tubes into the skin. One injects an enzyme to inhibit blood clotting and the other sucks blood into their bodies. Not all mosquitoes cause pain when they bite and most leave nothing but the telltale red bump that itches. This is an allergic reaction to the mosquito saliva.

    Environment. Mosquitoes are found throughout the world. They prefer warm, humid environments with plenty of water. But even just a little standing water or warm, wet soil can provide the right environment for mosquitoes to breed.