Mosquitoes: Pest or Key to the Ecosystem?
Do you know anyone that really likes mosquitoes? Most people do not care for these buzzy biters, but being that they are omnipresent in South Florida and in particular the Everglades, some thought has to be put into their role in the swamp ecosystem. In fact, when you look into these “pests,” they are a fascinating study in nature!
During the rainy summer months, our area sees an increase in the number of mosquitoes present across southwest Florida. This increased population is a direct result of standing rainwater that provides the perfect condition for these creatures to lay their eggs. As they lay their eggs, they start the food chain as larvae which are eaten by the Gambusia (mosquito fish) who in turn are food for larger fish such as wide mouth bass and garfish who are eaten by the alligators and larger birds and of course to humans as well. What starts off as a nuisance is really a key component to the food chain in the Everglades.
There are over 40 different species of mosquitos in the Everglades and an interesting fact is that most of them don’t bite humans. Of the species that do it’s only the female that will bite. The life cycle of the mosquito follows the pattern from eggs laid in water which are connected together into a raft shape in which they float on top of the water. Within 48 hours the egg hatches and becomes the larva which will eventually swim in the water and then surface to breathe. They will shed their skins four times before they emerge into the pupa stage. This part of the cycle is known as a resting phase in which they don’t feed, but are able to flip their tails to propel them up and down in the water. They emerge from the water as adults and will take a short period of time to let all it’s body parts dry so it will be able to fly. The wings spread and dry and then they can take flight.
The length of time that they spend in each stage is dependant on the species and the temperature. Generally the higher the temperature, the shorter the period of time needed to fully form. This translates into anywhere from 4 days up to as long as a month. It’s about two days or so after they arrive at adulthood that they can draw blood and mate and start the whole cycle all over again.
At this point they become pests to humans, but with a little bug repellant you can avoid the sting and enjoy your day in the Everglades!