Today, we’re going to look at the life cycle of a mosquito, share some thoughts on how to reduce mosquito populations in your yard, and offer ideas for plants and containers that repel mosquitoes.
As fragile as mosquitoes are, they are some really tough bugs… and really fascinating bugs, too.
There are over 3000 species of mosquitoes worldwide. Lucky Iceland and Antarctica don’t have these cold-blooded creatures living in their land – they don’t have to deal with mosquitoes. In Canada though, we do.
The Mosquito’s Life Cycle
Mosquitoes are very fascinating insects. And very tough insects. That would be why they survive in our zone 3 climate here in Edmonton.
The life cycle of a mosquito is very intriguing and by looking at it, we get clues as to how we can manage them better in our own gardening space.
Mosquitoes have 4 distinct stages of development: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The actual time it takes for mosquitoes to grow from egg to adult depends on the species and the environmental temperatures. Because of this, making accurate estimates as to when mosquitoes will have a population bloom varies from year to year.
The lower the temperature, the longer maturation takes. A mosquito’s development can also go on hold (called diapause) at any stage. The average time of development from egg to adult is about 14 days.
Females lay eggs wherever there is standing water.
A female can lay 100 -300 eggs every 3 days near water or on the water. They lay eggs singly or in clusters that resemble rafts.
Eggs must be in water to hatch. They hatch within 2-3 days once submerged. Eggs are tough – delayed hatching occurs when the eggs are laid just above the water line and after a period of dormancy ranging from months to years.
Cold weather will slow down hatching, or the eggs can lie dormant until spring.
In the fall, females over-winter in places like culverts, tree holes, or old buildings. They go into a hibernation-esque state called diapause. They just stay there in a life hiatus. Once spring comes, the females come out and lay eggs to get the cycle started all over again for another summer.
Larvae are aquatic creatures – called ‘wigglers’ – that are air breathers. They must come up to the surface to breathe. Most mosquito larvae develop siphon tubes that hang from the water surface to the larvae, kind of like a snorkel.
The length of time this phase takes depends on temperatures, food availability – they feed on microorganisms in the water – and the specific species of the mosquito.
Larvae molt 3 times to become a pupa.
Larvae can also go into diapause where they delay their development until spring when the air and water temperatures reach a level that can support development.
The website mosquito.org describes this stage as “a resting, non-feeding stage of development, but pupae are mobile, responding to light changes and moving (tumbling) with a flip of their tails towards the bottom or protective areas.”
Pupa continue to develop until the new adult body emerges from a split in their pupal skin – in the way that a butterfly emerges from the cocoon – and it heads to the surface of the water.
Pupae can also experience diapause if the weather gets too cold and they can last through the winter to continue to develop when the spring weather warms up.
Once adults emerge from the water, they spend some time laying on the surface of the water to dry and so that their body parts will harden and become firm. The same thing with their wings – they have to dry out before the mosquito can fly.
Female mosquitoes live for 6-8 weeks and need blood protein for the eggs to develop. Females only mate once which is called ‘monandry’. please insert the photo called ‘mosquito blood’ somewhere with this
Male mosquitoes live for an average of 10 days. Male mosquitoes feed on flower nectar– which makes them a pollinator.
How Mosquitoes Overwinter
Male mosquitoes don’t live through the winter.
Females prepare themselves for winter kind of like how bears prepare for hibernation. They bulk up and diapause through the winter. When then awaken in the spring, they are looking for blood. Once they have their blood feed, they lay eggs a few days later.
How To Reduce Mosquitoes In Your Yard
Prevention and being proactive is always the best approach when it comes to a lot of aspects of gardening. If we prevent problem in the first place, then we don’t have to deal with solving the problem.
It’s the same way with mosquitoes – we can’t get rid of them altogether, but we can do things in our space to influence their populations.
1. Eliminate Sources of Standing Water for Mosquitoes
Because standing water is essential to the growth and development of mosquitoes, minimizing this in your gardening area reduces available mosquito habitat.
Search your gardening space, your balcony, or yard for anything that could be holding standing water. This could be a birdbath, drainage plates under flower pots, buckets of water, old tires, old wood, or a low-lying area in the garden.
Drain the water from birdbaths regularly and refill them with fresh water instead of just adding water when you see the level going down. Emptying the birdbath will get rid of any mosquito larva that may be hatching in the birdbath.
Check rain barrels often for mosquito larvae – fish them out or you could also use a product called ‘Mosquito Dunks’. Mosquito Dunks contain bacillus thuringiensis – a bacterium specific to larvae and worms that eats out the gut of the larvae. These could also be used in standing water in ditches. Bacillus thuringiensis is safe for birds.
2. Improve Air Movement for Mosquito Prevention
The feather weight bodies of mosquitoes have difficulty flying in wind – that’s why they tend to congregate under the shelter of leafy foliage.
Reasonably trim back foliage to allow increased air movement, especially in the areas where you like to sit and enjoy your garden. Mosquitoes can’t hang around when there is a breeze and they tend to seek shelter elsewhere.
The Best Mosquito-Repelling Plants for Canada
There are plants that are naturally repulsive to mosquitoes. Because mosquitoes don’t like them, they give these plants a wider berth.
For mosquito repelling plants, the thing to remember is that they are most effective when you rub them to release the oils and scents that mosquitoes hate.
Research has shown that these plants don’t really fend off mosquitoes by just growing in the area, they need to be rubbed.
This means that if you are sitting in your favourite garden space, like on the front step, porch, or balcony; you need to stroke the leaves of the plants while you sit near them.
We have compiled a list of plants with oils and scents that mosquitoes dislike; these plants are dual function – they are both beautiful and mosquito deterring.
Here’s the best mosquito repelling plants in Canada:
- Basil – a very popular herb, remember always plant this herb alone
- Catnip – the scent is a deterrent for mosquitoes
- Citronella or Citrosa Geraniums – have a very lemony scent and the oils are used in other citronella based mosquito repellant products
- Lavender – has a strong scent that mosquitoes don’t like
- Lemon Balm – mosquitoes hate the smell of anything with lemony scent
- Lemon Thyme
- Lemon Grass
- Lemon Verbena
- Marigolds – are strongly scented and mosquitoes don’t like them
- Monarda (Bee Balm) – is another plant with a robust fragrance unattractive to mosquitoes
- Rosemary – prefers drier soil, and is strongly scented
Mosquito-Repelling Planter Ideas
There is an art to designing planted containers and everyone can do it! One easy method is the Thriller, Spiller, Filler system.
To describe this method briefly:
- The Thriller gives height and drama to a container. This is typically accomplished with an ornamental grass, a canna, or other taller plant. They can be either flowering or just foliage.
- The Filler fills in the middle area of the planted arrangement. This is usually a flowering plant, although there are smaller grasses or foliage plants, like coleus, that work well here.
- The Spiller is a plant that adds even more length to the planting. It flows or ‘spills’ over the edge of the pot. Both flowering and foliage-only vines are used here.
We put together the chart below with mosquito repelling container ideas and some other colourful additions that will help with mosquito container design. Mix and match for a vibrant pot for your garden space.
Thank you for popping in and exploring how to get rid of mosquitoes using the best plants that mosquitoes hate. If we can help with any gardening questions, please email us or call us, we’d be happy to help!
– by Sharon Wallish Murphy