Meet the mosquito
Mosquitoes are flying, biting insects that de-
velop in water during their immature stages.
Some of the many species found in New York
are considered pests and can transmit diseases
to humans. The three most important mosquito
groups are the Anopheles (carrier of malaria),
Culex (carrier of viral encephalitis), and Aedes
(pronounced “AY-dees”; carrier of yellow fever,
dengue, and encephalitis). All are less than
Only the female mosquito has
piercing mouthparts and feeds
on blood. The mosquito is
… the harmless crane fly,
which is more than twice
the size of the mosquito and
fected can help spread the disease and may also
die. The emergence of exotic diseases such as this
may be linked to increased human travel and
transport of goods throughout the world. New
disease outbreaks are unpredictable and illustrate
the need for public education and involvement.
Three mosquitos are mentioned here, but this
brochure focuses on Culex and how to manage it.
What can you do?
Culex pipiens, the most common mosquito
around the home and around the world, is the
primary carrier of encephalitis viruses. It has a
very small home range and usually does not
fly more than 300 feet from a breeding site.
Because this mosquito breeds in small pools of
standing water containing leaves or other de-
bris, backyards can be the perfect habitat! Rain
gutters, cups, cans, and birdbaths are “home,
0.5-inch (1.3 cm) long as adults. often confused with… does not bite. sweet home.” When given a breeding site,
Culex pipiens—Common house mosquito.
mosquitoes will stay in the area. To reduce
Although mosquitoes are usually a nuisance An adult female mosquito usually must take a Culex mosquitoes are persistent biters that feed at
Culex mosquito populations and the need for
and sometimes dangerous to public health, blood meal before laying eggs. Females have dusk, night, and dawn. Culex mosqui-
pesticides, you must regularly inspect your
most specialists agree that eradication is elongated piercing-sucking mouthparts used to toes prefer birds as hosts, but because
surroundings for potential breeding areas and
unrealistic. A more reasonable goal is popula- penetrate your skin and ingest blood from the they are frequently found in homes,
disrupt these sites.
tion reduction and management below prob- host. A component of mosquito saliva prevents they bite humans and can transmit
lem levels. This goal relies greatly on public blood clotting and causes itching and swelling. encephalitis. These mosquitoes breed in small
education and awareness. pools of stagnant water containing organic debris Ways to “fight the bite”
Saliva is the means for disease movement into the
and do not move far from breeding sites. Culex Before you even consider spraying insecticides
host. Blood protein is used to produce and
pipiens is the most important mosquito pest in over your entire yard, take a preventative ap-
A mosquito’s life: from water to air mature the eggs. Male mosquitoes feed on nectar,
urban and suburban areas. It matures from egg to proach. Insecticides should be a last resort.
Mosquitoes have four life stages: the egg, not on blood. Their mouthparts are not designed
larva, pupa, and adult. Eggs are laid on the for piercing. adult in 7 days; adults generally live 10–60 days. Prevent mosquito breeding
surface of water (Culex and Anopheles types) • Dump out standing water from containers in
or damp soil that is soon to flood (Aedes type). Public health concerns Culex pipiens is the most the yard, including recycling bins with bottle
Most eggs hatch within 48 hours. The larvae Mosquito-borne illnesses have plagued humans important mosquito pest in caps and cans, tires, boats, and tarps.
live in water and breathe at the surface throughout history. Modern vector control and
through tubes. Larvae, or wrigglers, feed on urban and suburban areas. • Clean debris from rain gutters early in spring
monitoring programs have greatly reduced the
organic debris and microorganisms in the and check them regularly. If you are unable
incidence of yellow fever, malaria, and encepha-
water, then molt into pupae, a resting stage Aedes sollicitans—Salt marsh mosquito, found to clean them, ask your landscaper or pest
litis viruses. Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), St.
that remains in the water. During this time the at the coast. Aedes mosquitoes are aggressive and control technician. A huge number of mos-
Louis encephalitis (SLE), and West Nile encepha-
mosquito develops into an adult. After two painful biters that feed during daylight and prefer quitoes can result from clogged gutters.
litis (WNE) remain significant diseases that have
days the pupal skin splits and the adult humans. Aedes will fly several miles from breed-
recently afflicted people in New York. Manage- • Clean, filter, and treat pools. Empty
emerges. The length of this life cycle varies by ing sites (areas that flood) but usually do not enter
ment includes intense surveillance for mosquito children’s pools and turn them over when
species from 4–30 days. buildings. Because these mosquitoes are associ-
outbreaks and routine monitoring for diseases. not in use. Keep pool covers clean by prop-
ated with naturally occurring floodwaters,
ping them up to drain water.
County-based vector control programs aim to residents need only to be aware of outbreaks,
use prevention to limit mosquito breeding. If then take measures to avoid being bitten. Coun- • Encourage natural enemies. For example,
encephalitis does break out in a community, ties on the coast have programs that manage salt stock ornamental ponds with goldfish. Mos-
outdoor activities must be restricted. The goal is marsh mosquitoes. quitofish (a type of minnow, also known as
to reduce the threat of disease and minimize Gambusia) devour mosquito larvae. Dragon-
Anopheles species—These mosquitoes are
pesticide applications for mosquito control. flies and damselflies are mosquito predators.
associated with permanent fresh waters with veg-
An unusual outbreak of West Nile encephalitis etation; eggs are laid on the surface of calm water. • Construct goldfish ponds properly. Large
in New York during 1999 has refocused our atten- This mosquito is the only one that carries malaria. goldfish are unable to reach sloping edges of
Mosquito life stages in water: egg raft, larvae with air tubes,
and pupa. Larvae are commonly called “wrigglers” be-
tion on vector-borne diseases. This and other Although malaria does not normally occur in ponds where mosquitoes breed, so be sure
cause of the way they squirm through water when dis- encephalitis viruses not only endanger humans New York, several cases have been reported in your pond has vertical sides. A pond foun-
turbed or when seeking food. but can infect and kill horses. Birds that are in- recent years. tain will also reduce mosquito breeding.
For more information
Your local Cornell Cooperative Extension office What’s all
Department of Health (New York State or your County)
American Mosquito Control Association:
the buzz about
Center for the Environment (Risk Analysis), Cornell
Centers for Disease Control: (Vector-borne Illnesses
Mosquito Integrated Pest Management:
Sides of goldfish ponds should be steep (top). Gradual, New York City Department of Health
sloping sides provide places for mosquitos to breed that
large goldfish cannot reach (bottom).
Pesticide Information—Cornell University
• Change the water in birdbaths and fountains
twice a week. Olkowski, W., S. Daar, and H. Olkowski. 1991. Common-
Sense Pest Control. Taunton Press, Newtown, CT.
Protect yourself against Culex mosquitoes
• Cover up with loose-fitting, lightweight The New York State IPM Program
clothing from dusk to dawn. We encourage people to adopt a
sustainable approach to managing
• Use insect repellents properly, especially on
children (never on their skin). Read the label I M Integrated
pests, using methods that minimize
environmental, economic, and
and follow precautions. Pest
health risks. For more information:
• Keep household screens in good repair and NYS Integrated Pest Management Program;
do not prop open windows or doors. 1-800-635-8356; NYSAES, Geneva, NY 14456;
For additional copies of this brochure (IPM
• Attend public forums and educate yourself. No. 606), contact your local Cornell Cooperative
• Remember that electric insect “zappers” do Extension office or the NYS IPM Program.
not help to prevent mosquito problems. Produced by the Community IPM Program, which is funded by
These devices generally kill more beneficial Cornell University, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and the New
York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Writing:
insects than pests. Jody Gangloff; Production: Carrie Koplinka-Loehr; Artwork: Susan
MacKay (cover) and Karen English-Loeb (ponds, mosquito); other
• Recognize that light traps and carbon diox- drawings courtesy of USDA and NYSAES. Permission for the use of
ide traps used by mosquito control programs “Fight the Bite” granted by Kristine Smith, New York State Depart-
ment of Health. Special thanks to Cornell University’s Department
are for monitoring purposes and cannot be of Entomology. Cornell Cooperative Extension provides equal
used to reduce mosquito numbers. program and employment opportunities. Printed on recycled paper.
17M 4/00 AP
These steps will help protect you from mosqui-
toes, disease, and risks associated with pesti-
cides. With greater public participation (i.e.,
you!), mosquito numbers can be reduced.
Potential breeding sites shown in the cover illustration: rain gutter, At least a dozen potential breeding sites are Cornell
rain barrel, umbrella, lawn chairs, kiddie pool, pool toys, recycling
bin with cans, bird bath, potted plant saucer, dog bowl, watering
can, and garden pond.
shown in this illustration. Can you identify
them? The answers are at the bottom
of the panel to the far left.