Common name: Northern House Mosquito
Scientific name: Culex pipiens


Kingdom: Animalia                                  
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Diptera
Family: Culicidae  
Genus: Culex
Species: Culex pipiens

 

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Culex pipiens is a type of blood-feeding mosquito.  Its common name is the Northern house mosquito. It lives everywhere in the world except Antarctica. This mosquito has a slender body with three segments: head, thorax and abdomen. It has eyes and a pair of long, many-segmented antennae.  The head also has an elongated, forward-projecting "stinger-like" proboscis used for feeding. Though generally considered a nuisance, there are many fascinating facts about this insect.

Many things mark the characteristics of Culex Pipiens.  Take its size, for example.  An adult mosquito ranges in size from three to seven millimeters.  As a larva, however, it is only one to two millimeters. Another characteristic is its coloring. This species comes in a variety of colors, consisting mostly of blues, blacks, reds, and tan. Culex Pipiens has made several adaptations. Its main developments have been its ability to stick to surfaces, its ability to fly, and its needle-like tube “mouth” for sucking pollen (males), and/or sucking blood (females).  The Culex Pipiens is also responsible for the spread of the West Nile Virus in the United States as well as other diseases such as Malaria in other countries. It helps transmit these viruses by carrying the disease from one “host” to another.

The size of this species’ population is also a problem.  It is found almost everywhere in the world and numbers are estimated in the millions. This becomes a problem when attempting to control the spread of dangerous viruses such as West Nile. Culex Pipiens also displays an increasing resistance to pesticides used to control its population, which make it more of a health risk.  Natural environmental changes are helping to kill these mosquitoes off in some areas, but most countries are forced to rely on chemical means.  Yet when faced with the need to rely on these insects for pollination, environmentalists wonder how far population control measures should be taken. Most would agree that it is a very fine line when weighed against public health concerns

These insects do not have much of a diet. The male pipiens drink only flower nectar, and the females only drink blood from mammals. They will attempt to feed anywhere at any time.  The main predators of this insect are spiders. Their ability to fly often saves them from this enemy. They also fall victim to other mosquitoes and are known to fight each other for food sources.

The Culex pipiens importance is not just that the males pollinate the flowers. We are also learning a great deal due to its adaptation and increasing resistance to pesticides.  Because they spread disease, we should watch out for them, however. All-in-all, this insect is vastly misunderstood, and if it didn’t spread disease, the world would understand it a bit better.

Author: Jared K.
Published: 02/13

Sources: http://www.metapathogen.com/mosquito/culex/, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/culex_pipiens , http://www-rci.rutgers.edu/insects/cxpip.htm , and the World Book, volume M-13.


Photo Credit: Centers for disease control (public access).