We are all familiar with one of nature’s most ubiquitous parasitical creatures, the common mosquito though it should be pointed out that nothing’s common about them and that they are truly insidious. So let’s take a closer look at the mosquito and its life cycle, shall we? The mosquito undergoes four stages of development, from an egg, larvae to pupa and where it finally emerges as an adult mosquito.
- Egg: Eggs are laid by female mosquitoes on either standing bodies of water or wet soil; depending on the type of mosquito, they are either laid singly or grouped together as rafts. It has been known for a single raft to contain over 200 eggs, which is a lot. The female mosquito often requires a blood meal before she is able to lay out a fresh brood; it is not unheard for a single mosquito to lay hundreds of eggs which brings into sharp focus the various health issues we often face, as a result of a single mosquito bite. The eggs will hatch in 24-48 hours and the larvae will emerge.
- Larvae: Once the larvae emerge, it lives in the water, comes up to the surface to breathe and undergoes four instars. That is, it grows four times its size, sheds its skin four times until it reaches the final stage before moving to the pupa stage. This process takes anywhere up to seven days but it also depends on external factors such as the temperature of the water, alkalinity, etc. Most larvae hang upside down from the surface and have a siphon tube which they utilize for breathing purposes. The larvae often feed on other microorganisms in the water until they reach the right size.
- Pupa: The pupal stage is when the larvae become dormant, similar to the caterpillar as it undergoes a metamorphosis. Similarly, the larvae become dormant, and their outer skin toughens but they are not dormant and do respond to light and other stimuli. Eventually, they come to a complete halt at the bottom and rest until it is time for the next stage to take place.
- Adult: In about two to three days or more, depending on the type of mosquito, the adult mosquito emerges from its cocoon. The timing for each stage differs from one mosquito to another and further complicating the situation is the fact that external stimuli can also alter the time taken for each stage of development. Even a temperature variation of ten Fahrenheit can cut the whole life cycle from egg to adult stage by half. Once the adult mosquito emerges from its pupal shell, it needs to first dry out its wings and explore its current environment. The actual feeding and mating may not take place for another two days, and by then, the adult mosquito would have become more familiar with its surroundings and soon, the entire life cycle should repeat.
It should be pointed out that mosquitoes carry several pathogens and are known for spreading several life-threatening illnesses like Malaria, which also happens to be a global killer.
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