While mosquitoes normally lie low during the winter, they just become inactive and look for a place to hibernate during this season. Mosquito species like the genera Anopheles, Culiseta, and Culex like to hibernate when the weather gets cold.
A lot of people believe that mosquitoes are summer pests. But contrary to what others believe, these insects do not die during the winter. Instead, they hide in dark, warmer places to protect themselves from the weather.
In 1904, cranberry plantation owner and insect enthusiast from New Jersey J. Turner Brakely observed the behavior of these insects during the winter. He discovered and studied hundreds of regular hibernating adult mosquitoes. Brakely found out that most mosquito species would look for a place to stay inside the house, particularly in warm spaces such as cellars. He also saw a lot of mosquitoes staying in vacant buildings, inside boxes, and trash piles.
Meanwhile, species like the Culex and Anopheles are hiding in the covered areas of water banks in creeks, in the middle of exposed roots of trees, as well as in the holes in the ground that were dug by rodents, moles, and other animals. They also found residence in hollow trees.
For those in the colder regions like the Arctic, the hibernation process known as diapause usually happens twice a year. This allows the mosquitoes to survive in remote places. However, it also means they become less dangerous to humans living in Arctic areas. Since the reproduction period of mosquitoes is reduced in these places, there’s less chance of being stung by mosquitoes there.
There are also fewer mosquitoes in places like Iceland because of the unpredictable climate. There are times when the weather suddenly warms up in the middle of the season, causing the ice to break. Then the temperature will suddenly drop and freeze the ice again. During these times, the mosquitoes will emerge from the pupal stage. However, the sudden shift to cold weather sets in even before the insects have completed their life cycle. As a result, the mosquitoes in Iceland not have as great of a chance to survive.
Why Do They Hide During the Wintertime?
There are no other reasons why mosquitoes hibernate during the cold months, except for the fact that they are cold-blooded insects. This makes them dependent on warmer temperatures. Most of the time, the female adults of several mosquito species search for holes where they stay and wait until the warmer weather arrives. However, there are also some species that choose to lay their eggs in freezing water even if they die. The eggs will stay there and hatch when the temperatures begin to rise.
Once the temperature drops, their bodies will begin to cease functioning properly. But unlike other animals that hibernate such as bears, mosquitoes do not really sleep or pause their bodies during this season. They normally go into a “suspended development” where their bodies block the vital developments as they anticipate an extreme change of season.
How Do Mosquitoes Survive Winter?
According to Brakely, mosquitoes used a position that he dubbed as the “hibernation squat” to survive the low temperatures. It requires the insects to bend their legs and tuck their body near the surface where they opt to stay. This position allows them to absorb some of the heat emitted by the surface. They need this because they cannot make their own body heat.
Hibernating mosquitoes do not eat during that time. They prepare for the season by changing their diet from blood to food that contains a lot of sugar. These foods include nectar or rotting fruits which can help double their weight. According to a study conducted by entomologist David Denlinger from the Ohio State University, the female adults of a typical backyard mosquito known as the Culex pipiens store fat to help them survive until spring arrives. He also shared that the female mosquitoes that need to survive accumulate more fat than the other mosquitoes that are not hibernating.
The females use protein found in the blood they consume to assist them in developing their eggs. After a female mosquito has her meal, she must rest for several days then start laying her eggs in any still water she can find. Ideally, female mosquitoes live approximately six to eight weeks, but they can manage to lay eggs once every three days during the adult stage.
While mosquitoes do not like the cold weather of winter, their eggs will not be affected as the temperature drops. These mosquito eggs are in hibernation mode. They will just wait until they are fully developed and ready to hatch sometime during the spring. Based on a study from New Brunswick, New York’s Rutgers University Center for Vector Biology, the eggs of several mosquito species can survive without hatching for years.
What Are the Hibernation Patterns of Mosquitoes During the Winter?
The hibernation behavior of mosquitoes depends on the conditions present in the region where they are residing. Most of the time, they prefer areas where they can access wide, stagnant water sources. They also want a place with humid weather conditions where they can swarm as a huge group.
Typically, the female adult mosquitoes are the ones who look for the perfect place where the colony will hibernate. As soon as the females choose the hibernation area, they will lay their eggs there. They will have to wait until spring before their eggs begin to hatch. Since the egg-laying process is very important for any female mosquito, she needs to choose the right place where she wants to lay them as carefully as possible.
After laying the eggs, the female mosquitoes will have to protect those eggs for the entire winter. She also needs to keep an eye on all the larvae and pupae so they will not be destroyed by nature or eaten by predators. All adult female mosquitoes can lay at least 300 eggs at a time. As part of their stages of development, the mosquito eggs are able to adapt to temperature changes in a few weeks, depending on their species.
What Time of the Year Does Mosquito Activity Start Again?
Since mosquitoes like warm weather, places that experience winter will notice the inactivity of these insects. As soon as the temperatures start to drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, these insects will also begin to shut down for the rest of the winter season.
Different mosquito species have varying life cycles. They also have different habitats and can handle cold weather differently. Most of the time, the female adults of each species start sipping blood for a meal after mating with the male adults. They need blood to produce eggs.
No one can exactly tell when the mosquito season will start since it depends on the temperature and weather. Those who went through a hibernation phase need to feel warm to become active again. Meanwhile, the mosquito season will reach the height of its peak during the hottest days of summer. The high temperature allows them to pass through their life cycle more rapidly. This will let them lay more eggs and have more success in seeing the eggs hatch.
As the summer ends, people will notice that the number of mosquitoes will decrease. This could be because the mosquitoes born early in the season have already died. Fewer eggs also hatch during this time. As a result, the biting incidents also decrease which is a relief for many people.
So if you’re wondering where the mosquitoes go during the winter because you suddenly notice that they’re not hanging around your house like they used to, well, they’re just resting somewhere. You can breathe a sigh of relief when the cold weather arrives, but you cannot rest easy. You should still prepare ahead of time to prevent mosquitoes from invading your home again and hopefully, find another place to stay at.
As part of the early preparation, you must eliminate all stagnant waters around the house to get rid of mosquito pupae and larvae. You should also keep your house clean at all times. In addition, you can even seek help from professional pest control services to eradicate any mosquito eggs in your house. And of course, if you have a full-blown mosquito infestation come summertime, you shouldn’t hesitate to give the pros a call! A natural and effective approach for mosquito control is the introduction of bats through a bat house as they are known to be natural predators to many pests including mosquitoes.