Type: House Mosquito
Scientific Names: Culex pipiens pipiens, Culex pipiens quinquefasciatus
Habits (Adult Behavior)
Economic and Medical Importance
These two subspecies are so similar that they will be treated here as one.
They are commonly referred to as “house” mosquitoes because of their
often-close relationship with humans and their habit of entering into
houses and sometimes even breeding in containers indoors.
Cx. pipiens is a
light brown, medium sized mosquito with a blunt-tipped abdomen. There are
narrow white bands on the abdominal segments but none on the legs or
proboscis (beak). Males resemble females except they have bushy antennae
and long palpi on their head and “claspers” on the tip of their abdomen.
This is the most widely
distributed mosquito species in the World. They are also widespread
throughout the U.S. and California.
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Mosquitoes have four distinct life stages: egg, larval, pupal, and adult
as seen in the illustration at the bottom. The first three stages of
Culex (egg-larva-pupa) are spent in the water. An adult female lays
about 150-200 eggs in clusters called rafts, which float on the surface of
the water until they hatch, in about two days. Females usually prefer to
lay eggs in standing, somewhat polluted water such as sewage, street
drainage, septic tanks and cesspools, industrial wastes, and such backyard
sources as unused swimming pools, fouled ornamental ponds, cooler
drainwater and fouled water in containers. A wide variety of other water
sources may also be infested with the aquatic stages of this common
The eggs hatch into larvae
(wigglers), which then feed on small organic particles and microorganisms
in the water. Culex larvae may hang from the tip of their tail
(siphon) when they feed or they may feed along the bottom, but they must
return to the water surface to breathe. At the end of the larval stage,
the mosquito molts and becomes the aquatic pupa (tumbler). The pupa is
active only if disturbed, for this is the “resting stage” where the larval
form is transformed into the adult. This may take about two days during
which time feeding does not occur. When the transformation is completed,
the new adult splits the pupal skin and emerges. Under optimum conditions,
development from egg to adult takes about a week. However, all mosquito
developmental times are dependent on the temperature and nutrients of the
water in which they mature.
These mosquitoes may live
for two or three weeks in summer, but under cooler conditions the females
may live for several months. In areas of moderate climate, larvae may be
found in every month of the year, but in areas with cold winters this
species usually passes the winter as hibernating females in protected
natural or artificial shelters such as cellars, outbuildings, wood piles,
caves, culverts etc.
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HABITS (ADULT BEHAVIOR)
Female Cx. pipiens readily bite humans, but birds and other mammals
are considered the primary hosts. This species bites under low light
intensity or in the dark, tending to seek entry into homes and resting in
darkened areas when the light is bright. Children and babies are most
susceptible, often covered with numbers of reddened marks for many days
following the biting period. To adults, their humming at night is an added
irritant to the bite and sleepless night.
Males not bite, instead
they feed on nectar and plant juices. Females may also feed on plant
juices, but must obtain a blood meal in order to develop their eggs.
Small populations of these
mosquitoes tend to remain in a localized area (a block or two), which is
more common. Large populations (as from oxidation ponds) may move 3-5
miles seeking a host.
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ECONOMIC AND MEDICAL IMPORTANCE
Cx. pipiens is primarily a domestic nuisance, by may affect
industrial and agricultural production in certain situations.
This species is considered
a secondary vector of Western Equine Encephalitis (WEE) and St. Louis
Encephalitis (SLE) viruses in California. They were found to be infected
with West Nile virus in southern California during 2004 and are considered
The organisms that cause
bird malaria, fowl pox and heartworm of dogs can also be transmitted by
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PREVENTION AND CORRECTION:
Where possible, the best approach is to prevent mosquitoes from breeding
by eliminating or modifying breeding sites. This may be accomplished by
such actions as filing, dumping, ditching, or otherwise draining the
source. Often this is not feasible with sources such as septic tanks,
cesspools and rainwater barrels. These types of sources should be tightly
covered or screened to prevent mosquitoes from gaining access to the area
to lay eggs. Temporary containers around the home should be checked weekly
to remove standing water as in buckets, flower vases, tubs, or even tires.
Underground drains or cleanouts should also be checked. Check for broken
or leaking pipes under the house.
The most commonly used biological control agent in mosquito control is the
mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis). The stocking of mosquitofish is
often an effective control measure in sources such as fishponds, pools,
watering troughs and sewage lagoons where water is not too polluted for
fish survival. Other biological control measures are currently being
At times, it may become necessary to control populations of Cs. pipiens
with chemicals when other methods of control have failed. Only trained
mosquito and vector control personnel should apply chemical control
agents. Control agencies have knowledge of the proper compounds and
application techniques to assure minimal environmental side effects.
It is important to remember
that chemical control provides only temporary relief and should only be
used until longer lasting measures can be implemented.
Insect repellents may be
useful if it is necessary to be in an area where large numbers of these
adults are present. Always read and follow the directions on the label
carefully when using a repellent.
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