In February of 2021, there was a big winter storm that knocked out power and water throughout much of Central Texas. Residents in Austin, Round Rock, Georgetown, Lakeway and beyond had to deal with power outages, water shortages, and some people even lost their lives. But even in the midst of it, many optimistic Texans searched for a silver lining, saying “at least this will kill all the mosquitoes!”
We are sorry to be the bearers of bad news, but we did in fact have mosquitoes in the summer of 2021. It was in fact a fairly normal year in terms of mosquito activity. Why is that? Aren’t mosquitoes cold blooded? Why didn’t they all die?
There are over 3500 species of mosquito in the world, and they exist on every continent except for Antarctica. There are certainly some mosquitoes that are more adapted for warm climates, but there are also a large number that are adapted for colder climates. You might not get a very good look at a mosquito before you swat it, but take a look next time and see if you can spot the differences in size, color and markings between the various species in this area.
If you think back to your middle school biology class, you may remember that all animals are classified into kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus and species. Mosquitoes are all part of the family Culicidae. But there are 112 genera, and over 3500 species in the world. Humans, by contrast, are part of the family Hominidae, along with the other great apes (gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans), which only has 4 genera. And we are the only living member of the genus Homo, and the only extant species in that genus. In short, mosquitoes are a whole lot more varied than humans are!
Mosquitoes survive the winter in different stages of their life cycle, depending on the species. Some species lay eggs and then die, leaving the eggs to potentially freeze and then thaw out and hatch in the spring. Others survive as larvae in the water, either freezing or moving to deeper water where they won’t freeze. Still others survive in the pupal stage, and some even survive as adults, clinging to the bark of trees or hiding in the ground and letting their metabolism slow down until the weather warms up again.
There are about 10 species of mosquito in the Austin area that bite humans, and each of them has slightly different habits. Even if one of the species suffers significant losses in a harsh winter, there are at least 9 other species ready to take up their place. And we can say with confidence that you will see them at your Memorial Day cookout!
No matter what the rest of the winter has in store for us, we will see mosquitoes again as soon as the weather warms up. Mosquito Squad is here to help!