How to Identify Mosquitoes

Learn how to identify and control mosquitoes.

Mosquito-borne illnesses in the United States have been increasing, which makes learning to identify mosquitoes increasingly important. Mosquitoes are seemingly present everywhere during the warm summer months when their populations peak, but there are other flying and biting insects, too. You'll want to take a closer look to determine if your landscape is buzzing with mosquitoes.

Mosquito Identification Basics

Mosquitoes are insects with two wings, much like other members of the fly family. When viewing a mosquito up close, you'll see it has a long proboscis that functions as the pest's mouth and is used to suck up fluids (like blood) from its prey. Mosquitoes vary in color. The northern house mosquito is light brown and has off-white bands on its abdomen. The southern house mosquito is also brown and has a pale underside. Yellow fever mosquitoes, which are found in the U.S. and have had a dramatic impact throughout history, are jet-black with silvery scaling. The Asian tiger mosquito, also commonplace in the U.S., is dark brown and has a single white stripe down its back.

In addition, mosquitoes have 6 slender legs, small heads with large eyes, and hairy antennae. While these pests are only around ⅛-inch long, they are responsible for spreading diseases that kill more than a million people worldwide each year, according to the World Health Organization.

Which Mosquitoes Are Dangerous?

Mosquitoes are responsible for transmitting diseases like yellow fever, dengue fever, encephalitis, West Nile virus, zika, and malaria. Ferocious feeders, mosquitoes that are infected with a disease can transmit it when they bite. Often, people don't even notice when a mosquito is biting and drawing blood until mid-way through the meal or long after it has flown away.

There are more than 3,000 species of mosquitoes, and more than 100 of them are found in the U.S. The most dangerous mosquitoes, and most common, are the species of Aedes, Anopheles, and Culex. Species of Aedes mosquitoes can carry dengue fever, yellow fever, and zika; species of Anopheles mosquitoes can transmit malaria; and Culex species can spreading West Nile virus.

Would you be able to identify one of these species at a backyard evening barbecue or while walking the trash out to the bins with your hands full? Probably not. What's important, then, is to stay tuned to local warnings that alert communities to the presence of disease-carrying mosquitoes. Moreover, if your property is infested with these insects, it's important to take steps to lower their numbers.

Identify Mosquito Behaviors

Another way to identify a mosquito problem is by their behaviors. Female mosquitoes, those responsible for biting, are most active and on the hunt for a blood meal at dawn and dusk. However, aggressive species will feed whenever it suits them, day or night, which can be particularly frustrating when you're trying to accomplish regular landscaping tasks like mowing the lawn.

Mosquitoes Preferred Habitat

Mosquitoes are most frequently found near wetland areas or landscapes that have ponds or creeks. If these bodies of water sit stagnant, they make the ideal place for female mosquitoes to deposit their eggs. Of course, you don't have to live on the edge of a dank forest or swamp to experience a mosquito problem. Mosquitoes will lay their eggs in bird baths, backyard rain puddles, or even a child's plastic pail that contains a bit of water. Mosquitoes also prefer to hide in tall grasses (especially weeds) near water sources.

Combating Mosquitoes

Reducing the chance of a mosquito invasion is your best defense against these pests. Long before you even notice a mosquito, you should take steps to clear away debris like leaf piles and weeds. Keep your grass trimmed so it's less attractive to mosquitoes. Most importantly, remove all standing water from your yard so that female mosquitoes have nowhere to lay their eggs. If you do have birdbaths, be sure to change the water regularly to help prevent a mosquito problem.

Reducing mosquito habitat is important, but you may live in an area that is simply prone to mosquitoes. So, you'll want to take steps to prevent being bitten. During peak mosquito season, try to avoid performing garden or landscape chores in the early morning or early evening, when mosquitoes are most actively hunting for a meal. If you do spend times outdoors, cover up with long sleeves and wear a personal mosquito repellent. Repellents won't prevent every single bite, but they can help reduce your overall risk for bites considerably.

Protect Your Yard

Ortho® Home Defense® has a line of mosquito control products that you can use to safeguard your yard and patio from mosquitoes in 3 easy steps. Then, during your next backyard BBQ, you should notice less buzzing in your ear and fewer itchy bites.

  1. Treat your lawn and landscape with Ortho® Home Defense® Backyard Mosquito & Bug Killer Ready-To-Spray to kill mosquitoes (including those that may transmit the West Nile and Zika viruses) and other listed insect pests.
  2. Kill mosquitoes hiding in shrubs and other listed ornamentals with Ortho® Home Defense® Backyard Mosquito & Bug Killer Area Fogger.