There are few insects in the world more disliked than mosquitoes. For us humans, they represent a constant nuisance when they appear on a summer’s evening, ruining many an outdoors event by stinging everyone. Moreover, they carry diseases which have been extremely harmful to the human race, with malaria being probably the best-known example.
The term mosquito refers to about 3,500 species of insects, found all over the world. They are actually preyed upon by a number of animals and this has helped control their spread and evolution to some extent. In some parts of the world, predators have been used pro-actively for controlling the mosquito population, with varying degrees of success.
Let’s have a look at their predators.
Bats are known to locate and capture insects for feeding, and they are very efficient and clever in doing so. Mosquitoes are not their prey of choice, but they do form part of the array of insects that bats eat. In a closed study, a bat has been shown to be able to eat up 1200 mosquitoes in one hour, making bats the biggest predators of mosquitos. Bats are also easily able to do away with many of these insects.
Most major birds catch mosquitoes and eat them. Furthermore, many birds will eat mosquitoes both when they are fully grown insects, and when they in an aquatic development stage. This is definitely a bonus for population control.
The most common birds who prey on mosquitoes are purple martins, swallows, migratory songbirds, and waterfowl such as geese and ducks. Barn swallows are especially fond of mosquitoes and can eat up to 60 insects an hour.
Finally, ground-based fowl like chickens eat mosquitoes along with many other small insects, if they come across them.
You might be surprised but fish are predators of mosquito. How? Fish target mosquitoes in the larval stage, when they are actually in the water. Goldfish and guppies, as well as bass, bluegill and catfish prey on the larvae.
However, there is also the so-called mosquito fish – Gambusia affinis. It feeds on the mosquito larvae predominantly and, as a result, it has been used specifically by mosquito control agencies to help control the spread of mosquitoes.
4. Frogs and Tadpoles
Another aquatic predator, frogs and tadpoles actually eat other things, especially as adults. However, when mosquito larvae are available, tadpoles will eat them for convenience (normally, tadpoles would go for plant-related materials instead).
In North America, three species of tadpoles do feed specifically on mosquitoes: the spade foot toad, green tree frog and giant tree frog.
Finally, tadpoles and mosquito larvae compete for the same type of food, so if tadpoles are successful, mosquito larvae will struggle and potentially decline. This is not a direct predator per se, but a contribution to perhaps lowering the number of mosquitoes and a good enough reason to have tadpoles in marshy areas where mosquito larvae would be prevalent.
There is a specific species of turtle which we know to eat mosquito larvae: the red-eared slider turtle. This is a subspecies of the pond slider native to the southern United States and northern Mexico, slowly appearing in other places as well where it was once a pet and has been released. It is a highly invasive species, and can lead to outcompeting native species in many places (it has caused particular problems in Australia where it was a popular pet and where it is now illegal to import, keep, trade, or release any red-eared sliders).
6. Dragonflies and damselflies
Dragonflies are nicknamed “mosquito hawks” because they attack and kill mosquitoes (not to be confused with actual mosquito hawks, or crane flies, which look like over-sized mosquitoes and don’t attack other insects – in fact, they don’t eat at all during their 10-15 day lifespan). In flight, dragonflies can be very agile and successfully prey upon many flying insects, mosquitoes amongst them.
This predator of mosquitos don’t eat near enough of them to help control the population, but they do catch a lot. In their larval stage, mosquitoes are a favorite food of the dragonfly.
Damselflies as well are another insect which consumes mosquito larvae when it’s in its aquatic stage.
7. Other mosquitoes
This may not be something many of us are used to thinking about, but mosquitoes prey on other mosquitoes. It is the case with predatory mosquitoes from the genus Toxorhyncites, where their larvae eat other mosquitoes’ larvae, while the adult species doesn’t actually carry diseases.
8. Aquatic beetles
Both the adult and the larval stage of an aquatic beetle consume mosquito larvae. This is not their main source of nourishment, but the predaceous diving beetle and the water scavenger beetle are known to eat quite a lot of mosquito larvae.
When you have spiders around the house, it is a good idea to keep them there rather than rush to remove them. If a mosquito falls into a spider’s web, the spider will eat it, so they are a good way to control mosquito populations at household levels. There is no pro-active hunting though, so don’t expect spiders to do away with a lot of mosquitoes.
The lovely hummingbird primarily feeds on flower nectar but, for protein, it looks to insects such as mosquitoes, gnats, aphids, etc. So they are also a good mosquito predator.
Occasionally, lizards may eat mosquitoes if they come across them, simply as an opportunity more than anything else.
Mosquitoes are probably one of the most hated insects in the world because of their unpleasant bite and their propensity to transport diseases. They affect developing countries and those with swampy environments where mosquitoes can grow and reproduce readily in the water. Whilst there are many traps and sprays to deal with a mosquito infestation around your home, as well as creams to repel them from attacking you, nothing seems to be 100% effective. Natural predators are definitely a great way to control the mosquito population in an environmentally friendly way, and here are the top known predators of the mosquito.
I hope that this article on mosquito predators was helpful! If you are interested, visit the Animal Facts Page!