Thursday, February 25, 2010

Our friend the elephant mosquito

Male elephant mosquito sipping nectar of goldenrod flowers. Notice the elaborate antennae
Elephant mosquitoes have a well deserved name; they are giants among mosquitoes. Their wing span reaches almost half an inch. They have a formidably long proboscis; you would think that they may have a vicious bite. Not so, the good news is that they do not feed on blood like many of their relatives; instead they are often found on flowers, drinking nectar with their long tongues in a poor imitation of butterflies. Just like butterflies they carry pollen from flower to flower, so we should welcome them in our gardens.

The delicate long tongue stretches and bends almost like that of a butterfly. Video

The scales that cover their bodies are somewhat iridescent and their legs are thin and long, even more so than many mosquitoes. The males have long, feathery antennae of an intricate shape; better to detect the vibrations, the buzz emitted by females.

Not only are they pollinators but they also have a remarkable virtue. They lay their eggs in water, not in large bodies of water but in holes such as old tires or tree holes; the very same places where the larvae of many species of mosquitoes grow and prosper. The nice thing about elephant mosquitoes is that they feed on the larvae of their relatives. So, the adults are well behaved and don't hurt us, instead they pollinate flowers, and their larvae provide another service to us by feeding on the pests that give us so much discomfort or even transmit diseases. So, let us celebrate our friend the elephant mosquito.

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© Beatriz Moisset. 2012

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