The Anatomy of a Mosquito

The Anatomy of a Mosquito on

A head-to-toes look at the body of your not-so-favorite bug

Annoying, Relentless. Aggressive. Nuisance. There are plenty of words to commonly describe mosquitos, and yet, surprisingly, remarkable isn’t one of them.

Despite their ability to ruin any outdoor fun and their painful and itchy bites, mosquitos are an amazing piece of insect machinery. It’s no wonder they’ve remained virtually unchanged for the past 50 million years!

Mosquito basics 101

When discussing mosquito anatomy, it’s important to remember some of those early lessons from biology class. Like all insects, mosquitoes have three body regions: the head, the thorax, and the abdomen.

The body is made of a hard shell consisting of plates that are somewhat flexible thanks to an elastic protein connecting them. The shell itself, also called an exoskeleton, is covered in a waxy coating to prevent the mosquito from dehydrating. Should that waxy surface be removed or damaged by an abrasive material, the mosquito would lose body fluids.

Some areas of the exoskeleton are sensitive to temperature, which enables the mosquito to locate where its victim’s blood is closest to the surface. The warmest spot is the best place for a mosquito to dine.

The head

The head of the mosquito, home to a six-lobed brain, is dominated by two compound eyes, which are many eyes grouped together. While they don’t provide a single image, they’re essential for aiding the mosquito with motion detection.

In addition to the compound eyes, there are also simple eyes, also called occelli. These are used to determine the angle and amount of light, as well as to orient the mosquito with the sun.

At the top of the head are two antennae, each covered in hair that have specific functions. Some detect wind speed, while others detect carbon dioxide – a key piece of information as the mosquito searches for a meal.

The mouth, made up of pairs of modified legs, is truly amazing. In the female mosquito, the pieces work together to pierce the skin of its victims. Once in position, she’s able to probe for a suitable blood supply while her salivary glands inject an anticoagulant to keep the blood flowing. Diseases, such as Zika and Dengue Fever, live in the mosquito’s salivary glands.

The male mosquito, because he doesn’t feed on blood and so doesn’t have a need to bite, has mouthparts that are adapted for feeding on plant nectar.

The thorax

In addition to four wings, the thorax also supports six jointed legs. Their “feet” are actually chemoreceptors, able to detect the chemicals on the skin and hair of the animal on which they’re walking.

The abdomen

The combination of the hard plates of the exoskeleton and the elastic protein connecting them is on full display in the abdomen. Here, the mosquito’s body is meant to expand to accommodate feeding and, in the case of the female, egg development.

The most unique features are spiracles, which look like a series of portholes on each side of the abdomen. Since insects do not have lungs, these allow the mosquito to breathe, bringing oxygen directly to their muscles via trachea tubes.

A mosquito is still a mosquito

Despite all of their fascinating features, mosquitos are still annoying, relentless, aggressive, and a nuisance. Single-handedly, they’re able to ruin any outdoor activity and spread disease.

Platinum Mosquito Protection is committed to keeping these pests at bay on your residential, commercial, and agricultural property with our automatic misting system. For a free onsite consultation on how you can be in control of your surroundings, contact us today.

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