Mosquitoes are one of the most common and pesky insects that humans encounter on a daily basis. While we often think of mosquitoes as being active only during the warmer months of the year, it turns out that they have a fascinating strategy for surviving the winter: diapause.
Diapause is a state of suspended development that is similar to hibernation in mammals. During diapause, mosquitoes slow down their metabolism and essentially put themselves on hold until the weather warms up again. This allows them to survive the cold winter months, when there is little food and water available.
Mosquitoes enter diapause in response to changes in day length and temperature. As the days get shorter and the temperatures start to drop, mosquitoes begin to prepare for winter by slowing down their metabolism and storing up energy reserves. They also start to produce a type of anti-freeze in their bodies that helps protect their cells from damage caused by freezing temperatures.
Diapause is a survival strategy that is used by many different insects, including butterflies, beetles, and flies. But for mosquitoes, it is particularly important because it allows them to survive the winter and emerge in the spring ready to lay eggs and start a new generation.
So why should you care about mosquito diapause? For one thing, understanding the biology of mosquitoes can help us better control their populations. By knowing when and where mosquitoes are likely to be in diapause, we can target our efforts to control them during the times when they are most vulnerable. This is why we start in March (sometimes earlier).
Additionally, diapause can have implications for public health. Mosquitoes are vectors for a variety of diseases, including malaria, dengue fever, and Zika virus. Mosquitoes are also the only way for dogs to get heartworm. By understanding how mosquitoes enter and exit diapause, we can better predict when and where disease outbreaks are likely to occur and take steps to prevent them.
Overall, mosquito diapause is a fascinating aspect of insect biology that has important implications for you. By learning more about this survival strategy, we can better understand and control one of the most annoying and potentially dangerous insects on the planet.