Animal Sex: How Mosquitoes Do It


Sometimes they’re mere pests, other times they’re dangerous vectors of diseases, such as malaria and the Zika virus. Whatever the case, the lives of both male and female mosquitoes revolve around mating, so just how do the buzzing insects do it?

Across the globe there are more than 3,000 species of mosquitoes. These bite-sized animals live very short lives — with males sometimes living for only about a week and females for up to about 100 days — and employ a range of strategies to get down to business.

In tropical regions of the world, the insects breed year-round, while those in temperate areas breed according to specific seasons. Given their short life spans, “mosquitoes have what we call overlapping generations,” said mosquito expert Laura Harrington, an entomologist at Cornell University. “Mating can happen throughout the season but with different age cohorts.”

In many species, male mosquitoes are ready to mate within their first few days of adulthood. Females, on the other hand, are generally ready to mate almost immediately after leaving their pupal casings (a pupa is an immature stage of life between larva and adult).

In one genus called Opifex, males take advantage of this rapid female maturity. “The male will actually emerge from the pupal stage and grab the trumpet or breathing tube of the female and then mate with her,” Harrington told Live Science, remarking on the fact that males are able to somehow tell which pupa are female and which are male.

In other species, a male will instead zero in on a human host using carbon dioxide cues, where he waits — buzzing around in figure-eight patterns — to intercept a blood-sucking female seeking a meal (males only drink nectar).

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