MOSQUITOES

 

Mosquitoes are abundant in all of Greece and Crete is no exception it is a mosquito 'Kounoupi' heaven during the summer. There are thousands of them, all with only one thing on their mind finding a way to getting at your succulent blood. When the sun starts to set they appear as if from no where and start biting, and just when your ready to fall asleep you here their incessant buzzing noise around your head. Even though you thought you pulled he mosquito nets down and taken every precaution humanly possible. There they are buzz buzz buzz! The only really positive thing to say about them is that in Crete, mosquitoes don't carry malaria, although a few isolated cases have been reported on the mainland.

 

Mosquitoes are insects that have been around for more than 30 million years. And it seems that, during those millions of years, they have been honing their skills at finding people to bite. Mosquitoes have a battery of sensors designed to track their prey, including:

 

Chemical sensors - mosquitoes can sense carbon dioxide and lactic acid up to 36 metres away. Mammals and birds gives off these gases as part of their normal breathing. Certain chemicals in sweat also seem to attract mosquitoes (people who don't sweat too much generally never get many bites). 

Visual sensors - if you are wearing clothes that stand out against the background, mosquitoes can see you and then watch out they'll zero in on you. I suppose in their tiny little minds it's a good bet that anything moving is 'alive', and therefore full of blood!

Heat sensors - Mosquitoes can detect heat, so they can find warm-blooded mammals and birds very easily once they get close.

Mosquitoes are thin, long-legged, two-winged insects and are typically six to 12 millimetres in length. Both males and females have antennae and an elongated 'beak' or proboscis three to four times longer than its head. These insects belong to the 'Diptera' order, known as true flies, in the family 'Culicidae'. All true flies have two wings, however, mosquitoes are the only true flies to have scaled wings.

 

HABITS AND HABITATS

 

Mosquito habitats vary for each species and can include natural areas such as rain puddles, stagnant water and ponds, springs and small pockets of streams, decomposing material such as wet leaf matter, ditches and marsh land. While all healthy wetlands are a brilliant habitat for mosquitoes, they are also home to mosquito predators. Some species of mosquitoes can fly far from their breeding sites. However, certain mosquitoes are considered domestic species because they breed around the home in small, artificial containers such as empty pots or bowls with water inside and old wells.


They thrive both in open and in weedy pools, in the purest and in the most contaminated water. Even in the oily and almost ink coloured rain water collected in disused olive oil barrels. Their favourite habitat however seems to be shallow ditches with a mud bottom and little vegetation. Only female mosquitoes bite humans and other animals for blood to nourish their eggs. Male mosquitoes do not require blood. Many animals including dragonflies, bats and several species of birds eat mosquitoes as part of their regular diet.
 

FEEDING

 

Female mosquitoes of most species need to feed on blood to develop eggs. Depending on the species, the source can be a warm or cold-blooded animal. Male mosquitoes cannot bite and both sexes use their long proboscis to feed on the nectar of flowers or other sugar sources like honey. Humans have come to think of the mosquito as a blood thirsty pest, but their primary source of nourishment is sugar.

 

EGGS

 
Some species of mosquito, like the common house mosquito, 'Culex pipiens', lay their eggs on the surface of fresh or stagnant water. Eggs can be laid anywhere that water remains stagnant — in cans, and even discarded tyres, although mosquitoes prefer water surfaces protected from wind. It doesn’t take a lot of water as some mosquitoes can breed in as little as one centimetre of standing water. 'Culex' mosquitoes usually lay their eggs at night and they stick together due to a special sculpture on the sides of the eggs that form a raft approximately 64 millimetres long and 38 millimetres wide. The raft can contain anywhere from 100 to 300 eggs and looks like a flake of soot floating on the water surface. 'Anopheles' species lay their eggs singly on the water surface. 

 

LARVAE

 

All mosquitoes need water to develop. The larvae resemble little wiggling worms, hence the nickname 'wigglers'. At this stage they have no legs or wings. All stages breathe air. They float at the surface of the water and breathe through an air tube at their tail end. They dive down to feed or evade capture. With optimal conditions, they grow very quickly in the larval stage, moulting four times over the next few days, until they become pupae.

 

PUPAE

 
Mosquito pupae are also known as 'tumblers'. They are comma shaped and will acrobatically somersault when disturbed. At this stage the adult mosquitoes are metamorphosing and are growing wings and legs. Like larvae, pupae breathe at the surface but they use two tubes on their backs. When they have completed metamorphosis, the adults break through the pupal skin and emerge on the surface of the water.

  

ADULTS

 

Adult mosquitoes rest on the surface until they can fly and then the search for food begins. The entire cycle from egg to adult can take less than 10 days to complete, depending on the temperature. A female mosquito can live for much of the summer depending on the weather and shelter, and if she lives long enough to feed on blood more than once, she has the potential to transmit blood borne diseases.  In 'Culex', 'Culiseta' and 'Anopheles' species, the fertilised females survive the winter in sheltered places such as caves, animal burrows, cellars and drains.

     
 

ASIAN, TIGER OR FOREST MOSQUITO

 
     
 

In addition to the existing mosquito species already on Crete, the Asian, Tiger or Forest mosquito (Aedes albopictus or Stegomyia albopicta) has become a significant pest in many communities because it closely associates with humans (rather than living in wetlands), and typically flies and feeds in the daytime in addition to dusk and dawn. It is characterized by its black-and-white-striped legs, and small black-and-white-striped body and is called a tiger mosquito because of its striped appearance, which resembles that of the tiger. It also attacks in "Silent Mode", no buzz warning.

 
     
 

It is native to the tropical and subtropical areas of Southeast Asia. However, in the past few decades, this species has spread to many countries through the transport of goods and international travel.

It is known as a carrier of certain viral pathogens including yellow fever, dengue fever and Chikungunya fever and it is capable of hosting the Zika virus which has been very much in the news over the past few years.
For more information on these viral pathogens
please visit the World Health Organisation

 
  

WHAT CAN YOU DO

 

Eliminating suitable breeding habitats such as standing water from around your area will prevent mosquitoes from developing near by. Putting up screens and stopping mosquitoes from entering is the most effective way to prevent direct exposure indoors. When outdoors, wear long sleeves and pants, especially during dawn and dusk, and use insect repellents with up to 35 percent DEET for adults and 20 percent for children over six months of age. There are many on the market and they all work quite well. Remember though mosquitoes naturally avoid lemon or lime products. Citronelle is a thick liquid and works very well.

 

Use a mosquito net. If you went camping you would automatically have netting which should be used every night and closed before nightfall. If you need to open the tent during the night, you should have a mosquito repellent on, otherwise these bugs will find their way in, and destroy the remainder of your otherwise peaceful and tranquil sleep. The same applies if your staying inside a villa, home or apartment. Burning some form of incense sticks is a favourite. You light them and leave them burning placed on their holder put on a plate.  Mosquito coils are a must they can rid an area of mosquitoes to a certain degree for outdoor use, but they won't prevent bites from the most stubborn of blood-suckers.

 

PREVENTION

 

All the supermarkets and mini-markets on the island stock a wide range of mosquito repellents, from pump sprays to aerosols and roll on. Sprays for your room, mosquito coils which you light one end and let it burn slowly around the coil, too electrical units which come with a liquid jar of repellent. After Sun with Insect Repellent, is a must and do not leave the doors open with the lights on in your rooms whilst enjoying a drink on your balcony as this is an open invitation for them to hide until your just about to nod off to sleep. If everything else fails and you do get bitten there are also lotions and potions for sting relief. Good Luck!

 

Sprays

Mosquito coils

Liquid Plug in

  
 
 
 
 
 

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