Mosquitoes Part II: Larval Breeder

Ask someone where to find mosquitoes and they’ll likely answer with some clever little quip. “On my patio” or “wherever I hang my hammock” they might reply, doubtless referring to the bites of adult female mosquitoes out for a blood meal. When asked where to find mosquitoes larvae these same comedians may be stumped. Finding mosquito larvae in areas where they are endemic is surprisingly simple, just find the water.

Look for standing swatter, without fish, even tiny ones. Don’t think just because the garden lacks a pond there aren’t mosquitoes breeding surprisingly close to home. A bloodbath, a puddle beneath the garden spigot, the terracotta base of a potted plant, all may be home to scores of squirming mosquito larvae. Even if it hasn’t rained in weeks one might find that condensation from a window air conditioner has built up in a clogged rain gutter to provide a tiny oasis for breeding mosquitoes.

During their aquatic stage larval mosquitoes eat by filter feeding. They’ll feed on aquatic bacteria, fungi, algae, and nearly anything else that they can strain out of their battery habitat. However clear that water in the dogs bowl in the garden one may rest assured it contains enough microscopic food for the larvae to developers so don’t think it isn’t worth checking. Additionally don’t overlook a potentially rich breeding sight simple because it doesn’t seem as if it could contain enough water. The cup-like bases of numerous plants accumulate water in which a number of mosquito species may breed, and the Asian Tiger mosquito has been introduced to the United States via the scant water held in automobile tires shipped from overseas.

Housing the larvae is really a simple matter. Any wide-mouth clear vessel will do in a pinch, but a special breeding vessel is simple to make and removes the difficulty of capturing adults without them escaping.

Gather the supplies:

  • 2 identical plastic containers with lids.
  • 1 fine mesh screen (just a few cm square)
  • 1 99 cent store plastic funnel
  • Hot glue or silicone caulking
  1. Cut a hole in the bottom of one plastic vessel. Make it as big a hole as you can while still leaving enough flat surface for gluing the screening.
  2. Glue the screening over the hole and set aside. This part will be the top of the breeding chamber.
  3. Cut out the center of the two lids, leaving a small amount (2-4mms, 1/8-3/16in)of flat surface.
  4. Cut the top (inlet) of the funnel so that it is of a size to rest on the rim remaining of the lid.
  5. Cut the bottom (outlet) of the funnel to remove the stem. If the remaining opening is smaller than a flying mosquito, cut it larger (about 1cm, 3/8in).
  6. Place on lid right-side-up on the work area and place the up-side-down funnel upon that. Connect the two using hot glue or contact cement.
  7. Fit the second lid up-side-down over the funnel cone and glue the whole together.

With the whole thing assembled and the glue dry the only thing remaining is to place the collected water and larvae inside and wait.The vessel with the t is the top of the breeder, while the unaltered vessel is the reservoir. When placed in a Northern window (for those in that hemisphere) the microorganisms on which the larvae feed will thrive and in a matter of days develop into adults. The adults will fly up into the cone of the funnel and become stuck in the upper chamber. At this point the upper chamber and cone can be uncoupled from the bottom and briefly frozen to stun the adults for transfer to a suitable killing vessel.

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Large vessel in Northern exposure window.

I like to use containers that have a bit of a recessed lid, the inexpensive plastic food storage canisters sold at most grocery stores work great. With those sorts of lids it’s important to fill in the area where the funnel passes through the second lid so that there is no area in which adults may become stuck. This sort of breeding vessel is suitable for many aquatic dipterans. In the case of mosquitoes it could be a good idea to first paint the top half (when assembled) of the vented vessel black. A number of mosquitoes are known to be attracted to black preferentially and it can serve to speed their transition through the funnel trap into the top vessel. If a large number of breeders are going to be assembled it could be a good idea to purchase a large roll of fine, stiff, mesh. Using the mesh one can form a significant number of funnel traps at exceedingly little expense.

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