“Do mosquitoes migrate?”

Asian tiger mosquito

At last! A picture of an Asian Tiger Mosquito that doesn't make me want to scratch! (Image by Ronnie Pitman / nikkorsnapper via Flickr)

Mosquito Week continues with a look at why we get a break from those pesky biters (at least in the Northeast) in the winter.

In comforting The Four-Year-Old who is still struggling with itchy bites even though it’s almost Thanksgiving, I happened to mention that at least she wouldn’t have to deal with mosquitoes for much longer.

The Four-Year-Old naturally wanted to know why, and when I told her, she asked: “Mommyo, if mosquitoes don’t do well in the cold, how do they come back in the spring and the summer? Do they migrate?”

Technically, mosquitoes do not migrate. Some have gotten caught up in the wind, ending up some 75 miles away from their breeding ground. They can also hitch a ride across continents from unsuspecting humans. The Asian tiger mosquito, which now thrives in 21 states, was first imported to the U.S. from Japan in a pile of scrap tires.  Most, though, live within a mile or two of their breeding grounds their entire life.

So, if they don’t migrate, how do they survive the winter? I’m sure it will come as no surprise to most of you that most mosquitoes don’t. Male mosquitoes typically only live a week or two. Females live longer, up to a month. Not long enough to  survive a winter, right?

For a long time I had assumed that the cold killed all the adult mosquitoes off, leaving only the mosquito eggs to launch the next spring’s crop. Imagine my surprise (and subsequent itchiness) when I learned that female mosquitoes can make it through the winter in relatively temperate areas. We think they’re gone because they no longer come out to feed when the temperature drops. But in fact, those wily females may simply be sheltering in old logs and animal homes waiting for the worst of the cold to pass, so that they can emerge unscathed (and hungry) to lay one last batch of eggs in the spring.

About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book will focus on science, and how parents without a science degree can answer their curious child's questions without enrolling in a college level refresher course. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Eleven-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, chatting about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.blog, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
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2 Responses to “Do mosquitoes migrate?”

  1. garrymoore says:

    hi to all caterpickles.comers this is my frst post and thought i would say hello to you all –
    thank yous speak soon


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