Habitat of the Month: Floodwater

April showers can bring May flowers, but they also bring mosquitoes! We all know that mosquitoes lay their eggs in habitats that are associated with water. What you may not know is that there are a variety of mosquitoes with unique habitat preferences.

A mosquito’s relationship to water is very different from other forms of aquatic insects. While there are many aquatic insects that spend the majority of their lifetime in the water, mosquitoes spend a short time in the water as larvae and pupae.

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A mosquito larva goes through four larval instars before it pupates and emerges into an adult where it will then spend the majority of its life looking for nectar, bloodmeals (females only), and mates to begin the cycle once again.

Puddles & Ditches & Marshes – Oh My!

A floodwater habitat is any habitat that dries out and then floods with water when a weather event occurs. Mosquitoes that lay their eggs in a floodwater habitat prefer laying their eggs in moist soil. Examples include small puddles, the side of a ditch, or a marsh at low tide. One female floodwater mosquito has the potential to lay up to 200 eggs per batch!

All of those eggs will dry out as the ground dries. The eggs become encased in the mud and can survive in the dry soil through the winter and spring.  Then, as it starts to rain, the dried eggs almost simultaneously hatch in masses when the rain saturates the soil and the water level begins to rise. If the ambient water temperature is right, the development into a mature adult only takes approximately 7 days!

Let’s do some Mosquito Math!

If you have 5 acres of salt marsh with 1.3 million mosquito eggs per acre, that is 6.5 million mosquito eggs. If only 20% of those eggs survive to adulthood, you have 1.3 million mosquitoes. Half of those mosquitoes are female and will eventually look for a bloodmeal.

Find out how to prevent mosquito emergence

Larval Development – The Sweet Spot

Larval development is highly dependent on the temperature of the water. Seven days is a perfect scenario for a mosquito; however, the temperature must be just right for this to occur, at around 27° C ± 3°C. With more extreme temperatures, you may see higher mortality and longer periods spent in the larval stage. That isn’t to say they won’t emerge in cooler and/or hotter water. Larvae, pupae, and adult mosquitoes are resilient. However, increases and decreases in water temperature can influence the rate at which the larvae develop and larval mortality (Christiansen-Jucht et al. 2014).

What makes a floodwater habitat?

Floodwater habitats can be found anywhere water is collected but can include: Drainage ditches that fill up with storm water, woodland pools after an ice melt, tree holes after a rainstorm, flood plains near streams and rivers, in meadows where depressions fill up after rain, citrus furrows and pastures from irrigation, and fresh and saltwater marshes.

Additionally, some species of floodwater mosquitoes prefer to lay their eggs in natural and artificial containers, such as rain gutters, bird baths, and old tires.

floodwater habitat

Floodwater Mosquitoes

A few common floodwater mosquitoes include: Aedes vexans, Aedes taeniorhynchus, Psorophora columbiae, Psorophora ferox, Psorophora ciliata, Aedes aegypti, Aedes albopictus, and Aedes triseriatus to name a few.

Psorophora ciliata, also known as the Gallinipper or Shaggy-legged Gallinipper.

Aedes albopictus, also known as the Asian tiger mosquito.

Aedes aegypti, also known as the yellow fever mosquito.

Aedes taeniorhynchus, also known as the black saltmarsh mosquito.

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