Why Do Mosquitoes Bite?
One of the most recognizable pest insects found in New England, mosquitoes are known for the irritating bites they inflict on humans and other animals. Mosquitoes bite to ingest a blood meal required for the successful production of eggs. More specifically, mosquito eggs need protein found in the blood of other animals in order to develop properly.
Consequently, only female mosquitoes bite other animals and consume blood meals. Before biting, female mosquitoes identify potential host sources of blood by sensing the presence of carbon dioxide, body heat and odor, color, and movement.
After locating a suitable host, mosquitoes use a system of specialized mouthparts to pierce the skin and ingest the blood of the animal. The mouth of a mosquito prominently features a long, tubular labium. The labium acts as a sheath enclosing needle-like stylets that enable the biting insects to penetrate into the skin of other animals.
Mosquitoes use the stylets to anchor the mouthparts, allowing the labium to slide back and make way for the labrum, which serves as a feeding tube and extracts blood from the host. When feeding, mosquitoes release anticoagulants that keep the blood from clotting and facilitate easier consumption.
Symptoms of Mosquito Bites
Mosquito saliva often causes an allergic reaction that produces a noticeable whitish bump within minutes of the insect biting. After about a day, mosquito bites typically become red and itchy. Hard to the touch, the bumps caused by mosquito bites sometimes also produce minor swelling surrounding the affected area.
In some cases, mosquito bites may trigger the formation of blisters or dark spots instead of bumps. Some victims of mosquito bites, particularly children, occasionally endure hives, slight fevers, swollen lymph nodes, or moderate to severe swelling and redness over a large area around the bite site.
Generally easy to treat, bites usually heal with time and rarely need professional medical attention. To alleviate the itching, mosquito bite victims should use calamine lotion, hydrocortisone creams, or even basic ice packs. Oral antihistamines often provide sufficient relief from stronger allergic reactions that result in severe itchiness.
Medical treatment from a professional doctor may prove necessary if symptoms such as body aches, fevers, and headaches arise from mosquito bites, as these warning signs are common indicators of serious, mosquito-borne illnesses.
Mosquito Bite Prevention
Insect repellent is one of the most common forms of protection against bites. Wearing long sleeves and pants will also help limit the amount of exposed skin available to the pests. Some species of plants have also been shown to help keep mosquitoes away.
Mosquitoes require water to complete their life cycle, so regularly draining or dumping pools of stagnant water can help to keep the pests away. Commonly overlooked locations of standing water include:
- Flowerpots & Planters
- Trash containers