I’ve heard that male mosquitoes don’t drink blood. What do they eat? —Marvin Ludwig, via e-mail
Actually, both male and female mosquitoes eat the same things—nectar, plant sap, or honeydew (a sticky substance excreted by aphids)—for energy. But only female mosquitoes imbibe a blood meal, says entomologist Joseph Conlon of the American Mosquito Control Association in New Jersey. The females need the protein in blood platelets to develop eggs.
Some mosquito species have host preferences and, like today’s vampire boyfriends, don’t blood feed on humans. In fact, according to Doug Currie, entomology curator at the Royal Ontario Museum, some species (about eight out of 75 in Canada) don’t take blood at all—the females need only a carbohydrate meal to make eggs. Though not common in Canada, one such species, Toxorhynchites, has been bred elsewhere as a biological control for certain blood-sucking mosquitoes, because its larvae eat the larvae of other mosquitoes.
Unfortunately, says Conlon, “using Tox as a control methodology has never quite panned out.” For one thing, since the larvae are cannibalistic, that makes large-scale rearing extremely difficult and expensive. “They tend to eat each other too.”
Published in the June 2011 issue of Cottage Life.