Mosquitoes flying around

Why do Mosquitoes Bite

January 31, 2023

By Daniel Baldwin, BCE, CCFS, CP-FS

Mosquito bites aren’t just annoying and itchy — they’re also how mosquitoes transmit germs and diseases to humans. To prevent mosquitoes from becoming a nuisance in your home and yard, learn why these insects bite, what attracts them, and how to prevent them from biting you.

Why do mosquitoes bite?

Mosquitoes eat different types of things to survive, depending on their age and gender. Adult female mosquitoes feed on plant and flower nectar, but they primarily bite and suck the blood of humans and animals to get the protein they need to produce and develop eggs, taking in three times their weight in blood. After they feed, the females seek out water to lay their eggs, and the mosquito life cycle continues.

After mosquito eggs hatch and the larvae emerge, the young mosquitoes prefer to eat microorganisms that form in standing water. Adult male mosquitoes don’t bite humans at all and only feed on flower nectar. 

swarm of mosquitoes biting child's leg

What happens when a mosquito bites?

When a mosquito bites, it uses a long, skinny mouthpart, called a proboscis. This mouthpart is similar to a very small, very fine needle. After piercing your skin with the proboscis, the insect sucks in a bit of blood as it discharges its saliva into your bloodstream. The saliva acts as an anticoagulant, which is a type of blood thinner, and helps the blood flow more easily for the mosquito to feed on. 

When a mosquito’s saliva enters your bloodstream, your body reacts as if the saliva is an allergen. Your immune system floods the area with histamine to try and rid the body of it. Most people are allergic to mosquito bites to a certain degree, and the histamine that’s released by your body is what causes a mosquito bite to become itchy and swollen. A mosquito’s saliva can transmit illnesses like malaria or zika.

What does a mosquito bite look like?

Some people only experience a small bump and mild itchiness from mosquito bites. Others react more strongly, with lots of swelling, soreness, and redness at the site. 

The bites from mosquitoes can last for hours or days, depending on the size of the bite and your immune system’s reaction. When you scratch the area, it causes more inflammation and makes the bite uncomfortably itchy. Continuing to scratch the area can lead to an infection and even more itchiness.  

three mosquito bites on neck

How to stop a mosquito bite from itching

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends these steps to treat a mosquito bite. If you’re concerned about your mosquito bite or have any questions, it’s always a good idea to seek medical advice.  

  • First, wash the area with soap and water. 
  • Hold an ice pack on the area for 10 minutes, and reapply as needed.
  • Create a paste of baking soda and water, and apply it to the bite. Wash the paste off after 10 minutes. 
  • Use over-the-counter anti-itch creams or lotions, some of which contain antihistamines. 

Are mosquito bites dangerous?

Although most mosquito bites are itchy and swollen, they’re not usually not dangerous. That said, there are a few cases when mosquito bites can cause disease or serious illness. 

Mosquito-borne diseases—such as West Nile or Zika viruses, dengue fever, and malaria—are germs spread by mosquitoes that can make humans very sick. If an infected mosquito bites you, it’s possible to contract one of these illnesses. Consult a doctor if you have questions or concerns about mosquito bites and related diseases.  

How to prevent mosquito bites

 To prevent mosquito bites, take the following precautions:

  • Apply an insect repellent to exposed skin and clothing. Be sure to read the label carefully before applying any mosquito repellent to yourself or others.
  • Wear lightly colored, loose-fitting long-sleeved shirts and pants when outside during the summer.
  • Remove standing water of any kind.
  • Keep your doors closed and window screens in good shape.

woman spray mosquito repellent on child's arm

Adult female mosquitoes lay their eggs in water to ensure the eggs survive and hatch. Mosquitoes can produce up to 100 eggs at a time, yet they only need a little bit of water to do so. Mosquitoes are commonly attracted to standing water in these types of containers: 

  • Bowls
  • Cups
  • Fountains
  • Spare tires
  • Barrels
  • Vases
  • Flowerpots
  • Fire pits

Keep items that collect water empty and dry to discourage female mosquitoes from laying eggs near your home.

With proven methods, qualified technicians, same-day service, and the best products and services available, Hawx is the undisputed local leader in mosquito prevention and pest control solutions. Our teams focus on ensuring high-quality results which lead to safer and more reliable outcomes that keep mosquitoes away for good.

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