Drawing by Giulia Brancato

Today is World Mosquito Day!

It is celebrated every 20th of August to honor the British doctor Ronald Ross, who discovered in 1897 that female Anopheles mosquitoes transmit the malaria parasite. Ronald Ross himself created the anniversary and its name.

Since then, #WorldMosquitoDay has become a special occasion to learn more about these important insects and raise awareness on their impact on human and animal health.

There are more than 3,000 species of mosquitoes. They are very adaptable animals, and they have successfully colonized an incredible variety of habitats across all continents (except Antarctica!). Consequently, they show very different ecologies and behaviours.

Here are four mosquitoes which may surprise you!

Gentle predators: the elephant mosquitoes (Toxorhynchites spp.)

A female of Toxorhynchites speciosus
Elephant mosquito (Toxorhynchites speciosus) in Cairns, Queensland, Australia.
Source: Wikipedia. Credits: Summerdrought (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Elephant mosquitoes get their name from the fact that some species are the largest known mosquitoes (up to 1.8 cm in length and 2 cm of wingspan). These “giants” are often beautifully coloured, and they have two interesting features. First, they do not bite because they feed only on nectar. Second, their larvae are predators and eat the larvae of other mosquitoes!

Weird breeding places: the pitcher plant mosquito (Wyeomyia smithii)

A female of Wyeomyia smithii on the pitcher plant used for breeding
Wyeomyia smithii female on the rim of a pitcher plant.
Credits: Reeves Lab (@mosquitoes_of_florida)

This north american species doesn’t vector any pathogen, but it has a very close relationship with the carnivorous purple pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea). In fact, this mosquito lays the eggs and develops as a larva inside the plant itself!

Pure beauty: Sabethes spp.

A female of Sabethes spp. mosquito
Sabethes spp. female biting a human finger in Nouragues, French Guiana.
Photo credits: Sean McCann (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Mosquitoes of the genus Sabethes are undeniably some of the most beautiful members of the mosquito world. Furthermore, the females have a very peculiar way of laying their eggs…by throwing them in flight! Curious to know more? I talked about it in one of my previous posts.

There is no such thing as too much salt: Anopheles bwambae

A hot spring which provides the waters where Anopheles bwambae breeds
Hot spring in the Semuliki National Park, western Uganda.
Source: Wikipedia. Credits: Byekwaso Blasio (CC BY-SA 4.0)

As we have seen for the pitcher plant mosquito, these animals can breed in very unusual places and Anopheles bwambae is no exception. We don’t know much about this mosquito, besides the fact that it is not bothered by salts: the larvae live in the waters very rich in minerals (much more concentrated than in seawater) flowing from the Buranga hot springs, in western Uganda.

Click here for the italian version.