Gardening Articles: Health :: Health

Did You Know?... Mosquito Facts and Fiction

by Suzanne DeJohn

Test your knowledge of mosquito biology and control. Are the following ten statements true or false? Answers below.

1. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in any water source.

2. Mosquitoes do not play an important role in the food web.

3. Male mosquitoes don't bite.

4. Mosquitoes are attracted to sweat.

5. Bug zappers are not effective at controlling mosquitoes.

6. Attracting birds, such as purple martins, by erecting bird houses can eliminate mosquitoes from your yard.

7. Citronella candles can be effective at keeping mosquitoes at bay.

8. Bats are efficient mosquito-eating machines.

9. The now-popular and readily available "citrosa" or "mosquito" plant will repel mosquitoes.

10. Mosquitoes have been shown to transmit AIDS.

Answers

1. False. Many mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water, such as ponds, but others lay eggs in places that are only periodically flooded. The eggs remain dormant until conditions are favorable for hatching. Mosquitoes do not breed in moving water, such as rivers and streams.

2. False. Mosquito larvae, pupae, and adults are important as food for fish, birds, bats, frogs, and insects.

3. True. Only the female mosquito sucks blood, which she needs to lay eggs. Adult male mosquitoes feed only on plant nectar and are harmless to people.

4. False. Mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide in the host's breath.

5. True. Bug zappers kill many more benign and beneficial insects than pest insects. For example, dragonflies, important predators of mosquitoes, are attracted to and killed by zappers.

6. False. Although mosquitoes form a part of the diet of insectivorous birds, such as purple martins, these birds eat a variety of insects and can't be counted on to control the mosquito population. They can play a role in a pest management plan, and are enjoyable to watch, but they won't eradicate mosquitoes.

7. True. Several citronella candles burning in an small, windless area may help repel mosquitoes in the immediate vicinity. However, a light breeze will cancel the effects as the smoke will be readily dispersed.

8. False. Like purple martins, bats do consume mosquitoes. However, studies of stomach contents indicate that mosquitoes make up a very small portion of either creature's diet. When given an option, these predators will go for bigger, juicier prey.

9. False. The citrosa is a type of scented geranium (Pelargonium) that has been genetically engineered to contain citronella oil. Studies have shown that the plant has no repellent effect when it's sitting in a room, probably because the oils remain trapped in the plant cells. Some people report a degree of repellant effect when they rub the leaves on their skin.

10. False. HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is not able to survive inside the body of the mosquito. Researchers say it's virtually impossible that mosquitoes could transmit the virus. There has never been a confirmed case of HIV transmission by mosquitoes.

Sources: National Park Service, Rutgers University

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