Do mosquitoes have teeth? Finding the answer to this question is more complicated than you might think. Nobody likes mosquito bites. And if mosquitoes bite us, they must have teeth, right? We’re gearing up for mosquito season in Arizona by understanding how mosquitoes bite us, the potential risk factors and ways to avoid getting bit.
Inside the Mouth of a Mosquito
Did you know that male mosquitoes aren’t the ones who snack on humans? It’s female mosquitoes that bite us, causing red welts and days of endless itching. Males stick to feeding on nectar, while females need the protein in blood to reproduce. Since all mosquitoes rely on a liquid diet, they have a unique mouth that is different than other insects.
Scientists say the reason mosquitoes are so good at spreading disease is due to the effectiveness of their bite. Mosquitoes do not bite us with teeth, instead they have a 6-pronged microneedle system, which allows them to pierce skin and find blood vessels. Two of their outermost needles have 47 tiny teeth, which they use to saw through skin. Then, other mouth parts are used together like a straw to suck up blood and leave behind saliva.
A mosquito’s saliva contains chemicals that help keep their victim’s blood flowing and block an immune response to the bite. This is what causes us to develop red, itchy welts and makes us more susceptible to viruses and parasites.
Mosquitoes in Arizona
Phoenix has been named the 11th worst city in the U.S. for pesky mosquitoes. The city jumped up 14 places in comparison to the previous year! These insects kill hundreds of thousands of people annually and sicken millions more around the world. They can carry fatal diseases such as West Nile and St. Louis encephalitis virus. In 2018, the Arizona Department of Health Services confirmed 27 cases of West Nile virus in Maricopa County and we are on track to surpass that number in 2019.
The monsoon season in Arizona creates an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes. Standing water and humid air enhance mosquito activity. With monsoon season quickly approaching it’s important to know some best practices for protecting yourself.
How to Protect Yourself from Mosquito Bites
The best way to avoid mosquito bites is to avoid mosquitoes. There are a few tactics you can use around your home or when spending time outside to protect yourself from getting bit. Give some of these a try:
- Dump out any standing water near your home
- Use repellents that contain DEET or Picaridin (such as Repel, Off! Deep Woods and Natrapel)
- Cover up with long pants, long sleeves and socks when outdoors
- Wear a mosquito repellent wristband
- Hang mosquito netting around your porch or patio
- Sit near an oscillating fan when spending time outside
- Keep your grass cut and your yard free of fallen leaves or debris
These measures can go a long way in helping you avoid a serious disease, such as West Nile. If you have family members or friends with compromised immune systems they may be more susceptible to mosquito-borne illnesses. It’s important to take precaution while outside to protect your family, friends and yourself.
Do you have some of your own tried-and-true methods for repelling mosquitoes? Share them with us in the comments below!