Are Mosquitoes Cold Blooded?

Author: Mosquito Squad of Greater Washington DC

Are Mosquitoes Cold-Blooded

Well, mosquitoes are “cold-blooded, check it and see (…they have no fever of 103)”…

A foreigner may not have written a song about them, but mosquitoes cannot regulate their own temperatures by producing body heat. Mosquitoes are cold blooded.

Like most cold-blooded animals, mosquitoes do not do well in cold environments. Unfortunately for us, they do have ways of coping with icy temperatures, so there’s no hope of completely eradicating the mosquito in winter months.

Luckily, we know our enemy’s secrets, so we can use that knowledge to prevent mosquito mayhem when the weather warms up.

Whether you are looking for ways to protect your home from pests this winter, or ways to get rid of mosquitoes in your yard (or their eggs), here is an inside look at the mosquito’s winter playbook:

Cold-Blooded Mosquito Statistics

Being cold-blooded means insects take on the temperature of their surroundings. Contrary to what you would expect, cold-blooded creatures can have warmer body temperatures than warm-blooded creatures at times, given that the body temperatures of warm-blooded creatures always stay constant.

They are very active in warm weather and they become sluggish when it gets cold and their body temperatures drop. This is because chemical reactions control the speed of their muscle activity, and these reactions run faster when the body is hotter.

One advantage of being cold-blooded is that these animals can convert more of their food into body mass than a warm-blooded animal. This is particularly handy when the winter begins.

Cold-Coping Tactics

Like many creatures — including humans — mosquitoes have developed habits to protect themselves against the elements. Do all mosquitoes die during winter? The answer is, unfortunately: No.

In order for an insect to freeze to death, there are more factors at play than icy temperatures; death by freezing is a result of ice crystals that form in the body, which expand and cause cells to burst. Some insects can tolerate the freeze with specialized anatomical processes. Mosquitoes just avoid it altogether.

What happens to mosquitoes during winter? When temperatures drop below a certain point, mosquitoes go into a hibernation-like state called diapause. They essentially shut down their development and wait until the warm weather returns. Only females go into diapause. Males, on the other hand, simply die.

The anatomy of the female mosquito includes an extra fat store, called the fat body. Before females go into diapause, they have about ten times the fat accumulation than normal.

Before entering this dormant state, mosquitoes seek shelter in plant debris, trees, or cracks and openings in buildings. This way, even as outside temperatures plummet, the shelter provides a more consistent and stable environment to wait out the long winter.

Unlike adults, mosquito eggs can actually survive sub-zero temperatures. Some species of adult females lay their eggs in freezing water. These eggs are extremely hardy, and can even survive dormant for a few years. They wait, submerged under ice, until it is warm enough to hatch.

And once temperatures warm up again, the adult mosquitoes also sense the more hospitable climate and wake up, thirsty for blood.

How to defend yourself against these cold-blooded mosquitoes

So, how do you beat these seemingly invincible little bugs? Here are a few simple tricks to make it harder for mosquitoes to last through the winter.

Eliminate breeding grounds

Keep pools and wheelbarrows covered, keep tarps taut or hang them up when not in use, and turn over or remove any objects that can hold water. Without a place to lay eggs, there’s a smaller chance for survival.

Treat standing water

You should be vigilant in preparing your pool for winter, to remove any potential habitats for mosquito eggs, which can last until the spring. Also, if you have a pond or other water feature, consider using Mosquito Dunks – a small tablet that releases Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (BTI), a bacteria that kills mosquito larvae. BTI is harmless to humans, plants, and animals.

Keep water running

Make sure that all drainage pipes and streams are flowing freely.

Mosquitoes are smart, and they are very successful at surviving through extreme conditions. The good news is, we’re smarter than they are! To stay on top of the mosquito population in your area, contact Mosquito Squad of Greater Washington DC to learn about yard treatment options.

Sources:
http://coolcosmos.ipac.caltech.edu/image_galleries/ir_zoo/coldwarm.html
https://www.agriculture.purdue.edu/agcomm/newscolumns/archives/OSL/1991/August/082291OSL.html
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124269686