Male vs. Female Mosquitoes: What's the Difference?

Male vs. Female Mosquitoes: What's the Difference?

November 18, 2020

With literally thousands of distinct mosquito species existing worldwide, it’s safe to say that not all mosquitoes are created equal. As it turns out, male and female mosquitoes are also quite distinct from each other in several respects. Though they are different, however, each gender is designed by nature to maximize species survival as a whole.

Male vs. Female Mosquito: Size and Appearance

The most noticeable difference between male and female mosquitoes is their size. Females are larger than males, weighing in at about two milligrams (or 1/15,000 of an ounce). Besides their size difference, males appear bushier than females due to their having finer hairs (called flagella) on their antennae. These extra flagella are important in helping the male hear the buzzing of female mosquitoes, which is how he fulfills his primary purpose of finding a mate.

Female mosquitoes’ antennae are less bushy and contain odor receptors that help her find sources of blood, which she requires in order to reproduce. Blood supplies the energy and protein the female mosquito needs to lay eggs.

Both male and female mosquitoes have a proboscis, although the male’s is wider, branched and looks more feathery. This structure also aids the male in detecting the buzz of the female. The female’s proboscis lacks the fine hairs and is more needle-like in appearance, allowing her to use it to pierce the skin of animals to obtain a blood meal.

Longevity, Feeding and Behavioral Differences

Female mosquitoes typically live anywhere from two to four weeks, while males usually live one to two weeks. The focus of the male mosquito life is to find water, food, shelter and a mate. They feed mainly on water and plant nectar. Their specialized antennae help them to hone in on a female mosquito with which to mate. Male mosquitoes have no need for animal blood like the females, so they generally avoid contact with humans.

Male vs. Female Mosquito Buzzing. The female mosquito, like the male, requires water, food and shelter. Nectar and water are the female’s main sources of nutrition prior to mating. To attract a mate, female mosquitoes are capable of beating their wings up to 500 times per second. This rapid beating is what creates the annoying buzz humans hear when a female mosquito is nearby. Males also beat their wings, but at a much lower rate that does not generate the same level of sound made by females.

Specialized Receptors in the Female. Female mosquitoes have a more complex life than males, owing to their reproductive role. Female mosquitoes are able to bite within a mere two days of reaching the adult stage. Once they have mated with a male, the female needs blood to supplement her diet so she can create eggs. Sensory receptors in the female’s antennae help her find the animals upon which to feed. One compound sensed by the female’s receptors is CO2 (carbon dioxide), which animals (humans) exhale during respiration.

Other receptors on the female can pick up heat, sweat and octenol, which is a naturally occurring byproduct of oxidation in plants and animals that have a diet high in vegetable matter, such as oxen and cows. Octenol is also present in human breath and sweat. In fact, mixtures of carbon dioxide and octenol are used as bait in mosquito killing traps.

Restarting the Life Cycle. Female mosquitoes don’t necessarily limit their blood meals to mammals; they’ve been known to also feed on various reptiles and amphibians such as frogs and snakes. After they’ve acquired what they need from blood, females lay up to 300 eggs in standing water, beginning the mosquito life cycle all over again.

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