Do Male Mosquitoes Bite?
Often, when we talk about mosquitoes, we think about the vampire-like, blood-sucking ones. Many people don't realize that there is actually a difference between the female and the male mosquito, and that the difference is quite substantial.
Female mosquitoes are the ones we should really despise. After all, they feed on blood and they also transmit diseases. So, what do we really know about the males? I think it's time we gave the male of the species a little attention and actually learn about these misunderstood creatures.
Do Male Mosquitoes Bite?
I can answer this question with a very simple and resounding “no.” Male mosquitoes do not bite. Their proboscis (a special kind of feeding tube), is significantly smaller in size compared to the female. Because of this, they can't pierce through the skin of a host.
Even if they could, though, male mosquitoes would not pierce our skin because they don't need to feed on blood for protein. Females, on the other hand, do.
Male mosquitoes use their proboscis to feed on plants, and other vegetation, but it is quite small and, most of the time, male mosquitoes pose absolutely no threat to us.
Like many rules though, this too has an exception, let’s take a look at that now.
The Exception to The Rule
One genus of mosquito has shown that its males do, in fact, feed on blood. The Culex quinquefasciatus is the mosquito most known for carrying malaria and dengue.
The males of this genus were seen feeding on blood-soaked cotton rolls, they even fed easily through an artificial layer, although this was very thin.
Studies showed that the male mosquitoes chose the blood source over the regular sugary nectar, their normal source of energy.
The hard reality though, for the blood-loving males, is that when they selected blood over nectar they reduced their lifespan by a few days. A few days lost may not seem like a lot, but considering the fact that their average lifespan is just 10 days, it does make quite an impact.
These mosquitoes are found throughout the world in tropical and subtropical regions. It is unsure whether this demonstrated preference for blood occurs naturally or just under controlled conditions, such as those generated in a laboratory setting.
What Do Male Mosquitoes Eat?
Male mosquitoes like to feed on nectar from different plants. Some of their favorites are flowers found near water. Water lilies, hyacinths, and water lettuce are sure to attract lots of male mosquitoes.
Plant sap is another sweet treat for male mosquitoes. The main sap mosquitoes feed on is phloem. This sap is water-like and full of sugars, minerals, and carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are essential for the mosquito’s ability to fly.
The female mosquitoes only need to feed on plant sap which is high in carbohydrates, not sugars. They do this when they are not in the process of producing eggs, such as the period prior to hibernation or dormancy.
The sugar-rich sap provides the male mosquitoes with all the energy and nutrients they need. It's not only favored by male mosquitoes, but is also a favorite among most other Hemiptera bugs, such as leafhoppers and shield bugs.
Another thing male mosquitoes love is honeydew. Honeydew is less concentrated when compared to phloem sap. However, it's just as sweet and delicious to the mosquitoes.
A huge part of any mosquito's life is water. Water is a source of life for most living things, whether it be humans, animals, or plants—we all need it and mosquitoes are no exception. Mosquitoes need water for both drinking and for reproductive purposes.
All mosquito eggs are laid in water, preferably stagnant or non-moving water. Females will lay their eggs in water as shallow as an inch deep. The eggs will stay on the surface until they are ready to hatch as larvae.
Mosquitoes also need to drink water to stay hydrated. If mosquitoes are out during the hot hours of the day without water, they risk dehydration.
Why Don’t Male Mosquitoes Need Blood?
Male mosquitoes don't need to feed on blood because they don't need the protein and iron that blood provides.
Only the female mosquitoes need blood because they are producing eggs. The female will need to find a blood source to get viable protein for her eggs after mating with a male.
She will feed on an unfortunate host until she is full. Afterward, she will rest for two or three days while the eggs are maturing. Once ready, she will find a place with water, even if it’s just a small amount, to lay her eggs.
The male mosquito only needs to find a female willing to mate, once he has done that his mission in life is complete. The female only needs to mate once to fertilize eggs for her entire life, while the male can mate with multiple females until his short life is over.
Difference Between Male & Female Mosquitoes
The most significant difference to us is probably the fact that male mosquitoes do not feed on blood, which means they rarely come into contact with us. This is good for them because being a mosquito is rather dangerous. Whether male or female, most people fear these pests due to their deadly reputation, and swat at or kill them on sight.
That is, however, not the only difference between male and female mosquitoes. Another significant difference is the size. Males are quite a lot smaller than the females, after all, it is the females who produce all the offspring. Because of this fact, they need the extra body size to both produce and carry eggs until they are laid.
Other key differences between male and female mosquitoes are in their antennae and their lifespan. Let’s take a look at each of those things now.
Flagellum & Johnston’s Organ
All mosquitoes have antennae and this is where you can see a tangible difference between male and female mosquitoes if you ever get close enough. The male mosquitoes have fuzzier antennae compared to the females.
Mosquito antennae are fitted with something called flagellum. The flagellum is a kind of very fine hair. The amount and the density of this hair differs from male to female.
The reason why the flagellum differs is that each sex is looking for different things. Males want to mate, while females, knowing they will be found by males without much effort, are focused instead on finding a source of protein-rich blood.
The male mosquito uses his flagellum to pick up sound waves around him. The males have an incredible sense of hearing. In fact, they can pick up the sound of other mosquitoes miles away. Amazingly, they can even differentiate between male, female, and individual mosquito species in this way.
After sounds are picked up by the flagellum, they are then sent to an organ located within the antennae called the Johnston's organ. It is this organ which allows the male to recognize the different mosquitoes and insects around him.
Who Is Responsible for That Buzzing Noise?
The female mosquito makes the annoying buzzing sound which fills our ears during the summer. She does so to attract male partners to mate with. There is a small, comb-like organ within the mosquito's wings. The organ rubs against the wings as the mosquito flies, and this creates the buzzing, or whining sound we all know too well.
The sound might be highly annoying to us, but it is actually one of the only things that attract the male to the female. Since the female is larger than the male, her wings flap slower, making the sound different.
A recent discovery showed that different species of mosquitoes sang to each other before mating. It showed that the male and female would pitch their buzzing sounds to match. Once they have found the perfect tune, they mate.
Difference in Lifespan
A female mosquito can live anywhere between one month and four months. The male, however, averages a lifespan of only 10 short days. However, the female does have a lot more to achieve during her lifetime. She has to mate, produce eggs, and feed on hosts who will most likely try to kill her.
Then, she has to lay her eggs and maybe even hibernate during the cold months of winter. She has got her tiny mosquito hands full, to say the least.
This leads us to the next point where male and female mosquitoes differ; their winter activity. Mosquitoes are cold-blooded, this means they thrive in warm weather. The still-living females will become dormant as soon as the temperature drops below 50 degrees.
Male mosquitoes, on the other hand, do not go dormant. Instead, they will become very sluggish and will eventually die from the cold.
Do Male Mosquitoes Carry Disease?
Whether or not male mosquitoes carry diseases is a difficult question to answer. Since the males of most species don't bite, they do not pose a significant risk toward humans.
However, it has been shown that some species can transfer diseases to the eggs, which means that the offspring will grow up infected. This is especially seen in the Aedes aegypti genus.
A study showed that one in every 290 Aedes aegypti offspring tested positive for the Zika virus. This study was done with mosquitoes in a lab, whether or not the viruses spread to offspring in the wild at the same rate is unknown.
The Aedes eggs are exceptionally tough and can withstand droughts and harsh winters. These mosquitoes are hard to deal with and scientists are busily figuring out new ways to effectively reduce the number of mosquitoes carrying diseases.
In 2017, the FDA approved a new field trial which involved genetically modified male mosquitoes. These were released in the state of Florida in an attempt to stop the dangerous Zika virus. The male mosquitoes were made to pass on a lethal gene to their offspring which would kill them off before they reached mature adulthood.
The male mosquito is rather misunderstood. Many people see mosquitoes and immediately suspect them to be carrying a dangerous disease, or as potential bloodsuckers, at least. In actuality, it is only female mosquitoes that are responsible for these things.
A male mosquito lives on nectar, honeydew, and most importantly, plant sap. He gets all the nutrients, energy, and carbohydrates needed to live his short life from these sources.
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