What are mosquitoes and how can we control their habit of biting people and spreading disease?

A Scientific Encyclopedia describes mosquitoes simply as: “A small two-winged fly with slender body, long legs, and narrow wings bearing scales along the veins.”

Sounds harmless right? Except it doesn’t capture the effects of a mosquitoe bite: the itching you feel as your body tries to decompose and eliminate chemicals the mosquito injected into your skin, the terrible diseases you can catch from mosquitoes: West Nile, encephalitis, yellow fever, dengue, malaria, etc.

Females (of many mosquito species) have a need to suck blood so they can reproduce. Blood — supplied by an unwilling coyote, a cow, or a three-year-old playing in the backyard — supplies protein for their eggs.

A mosquito deposits its eggs in some standing water. The eggs turn into larvae, which eat by filtering water. In warm weather, mosquitoes can produce a new generation in just seven days, although two weeks is a more common span.

Adults lay eggs, which become larvae, pupae, and then enter the adult, to lay more eggs.The mosquito’s need for standing water to lay eggs has not prevented them from ranging from sea level to altitudes as high as 10,800 feet (3,600 meters).

Despite an occasional case of malaria in non-tropical locations like Michigan and New York City, and the spread of West Nile virus across parts of the United States, most people in temperate climates view mosquitoes as a nuisance.

The mosquito’s mouth is designed to slip through your fleshSome people are unusually attractive to the bloodsuckers. Put two potential victims in a room, and one may get 10 bites, and another 50 — or even 100. Why is not clear, but scientists do know skin chemicals attract them.

Aside from skin chemicals, mosquitoes have other ways of finding you: they can detect both carbon dioxide and lactic acid (produced by muscle metabolism) in your breath. They can also detect infra-red light from your body.