Elephant Mosquito – Toxorhynchites

Introduction:

In this Wiki article we take a closer look at the largest and most beautiful mosquito of all, that is the Elephant Mosquito. For those who believe mosquitoes are small and biting insects are in for a pleasant surprise. It is three to four times the size as the common mosquito, it has shiny colors, preys on other mosquito larvae and the best of all, it won’t bite humans. This is a mosquito with many positive and versatile differences. There are close to 100 different species of them, and they belong to the genus of Toxorhynchites. The species are found all over the world, mostly in the tropics. There are in fact over 3500 recognized mosquito species in total and they are spread over 112 genera. The Toxorhynchites genus is one of them and they belong to the largest mosquitoes out there. Unlike other common biting mosquitoes, their main need for survival and reproduction doesn’t require consumption of blood to lay eggs. They feed on sugary substances in the adult lifecycles stage. There are numerous mosquito species that don’t bite hosts for blood. The Malaya species for example within the Sabethes tribe. The Elephant mosquito is therefore a fairly human friendly mosquito and we will cover several more beneficial characteristics below.

Visual Characteristic:

Fortunately for us it is easy to recognizing an Elephant Mosquito because of its clear standing out traits. Since mosquitoes belong to the Culicidae family, they have three basic features to begin with. These embrace a single pair of wings, three pairs of long legs and an extended mouthpart.

Colors and Size:

The main appealing characteristics are, however, its colorful covering and its giant size. Adult elephant mosquitoes are remarkably colorful, and their bodies show bright and colorful patterns. Its physique has metallic, dark blue and gleaming scales. Their thorax and abdomen show coverings of purple and green colors with silver and white decoration. Furthermore, a stiffened structure of seta (hair/bristle) is observed on their abdomens.

Image Source: Wikimedia

An adult Elephant Mosquito can grow up to 18 mm in length with a 24 mm wingspan. It is a true giant in comparison to other common mosquitoes. Being three to four times larger makes this specie easy to distinguish from other mosquito species.

Why is it called ‘Elephant’ Mosquito?

The elephant mosquito nickname, however, isn’t necessarily related to its size. Looking a bit closer at their mouthpart, which is termed proboscis, a noticeable curve is recognizable. Instead of being straight and pointy it has a downward bending at its tip. The shape shows similarity to the trunk of a true elephant and it helps them sucking sugary substances.

Foods and Diet:

To begin with a positive note: The Toxorhynchites species are human friendly and don’t require blood to produce eggs. Their diet and food consumption pattern shows a change and depends on where they are in their life cycle.

Early Live Cycle:

During an early stage in life, the larvae state, their diet and means of survival reveals predation. Cannibalism can occur as well when sources of food are scarce. Larvae maintain a very protein rich diet when available. Their large size gives them the advantage to prey on a variety of aquatic organisms embodied in water. These often include larvae of other mosquito species, including those that do have a need to suck blood later in life. They use their strong mouthparts for holding, biting and cutting other larvae. Examples of preys can be larvae of the Aedes mosquito genus, from which the Tiger Mosquito species stems. It is from here where its second nick name arises, the Mosquito Eater. By nature the larvae are somewhat opportunistic and don’t actively search for their preys. Sensors, termed mechanoreceptors, give notice when preys are getting nearby. Once within reach, they move actively towards them for a festive meal. It is cited that larvae may consume up to 5 thousand preys during this stage of maturation. It can be concluded that their carnivorous diet brings added value to places where undesirable mosquitoes reside, and help reducing population.

Adulthood:

Once matured the adult Elephant Mosquitoes change their diet and maintain themselves with a variety of rich foods. These are often available and found in damaged plants, fruits and liquids high on sugar. Both males and females primarily prefer these amongst nectar, plant saps and honeydew. Subsequently, since these food sources are widely available on our planet, this has likely contributed to a global footprint of Toxorhynchites species.

Sleep Rhythm:

Yet another positive property of the Elephant Mosquito is that is has diurnal life rhythm. This means that it is an organism that basically shows a similar sleeping rhythm to that of humans. In a 24-hour day cycle it sleeps and is inactive at night, and during daytime activity happens by means of natural sunlight. This sleep rhythm is an important factor for survival. Sunlight gives visual ability for feeding and reduces risk of being predated. The positive aspect for us humans is that they won’t wake us up at night like some other mosquitoes do.

Life Cycle:

The mosquito live cycle starts off as an egg. Studies describe rituals of the female adult prior laying eggs. Flying loops with a decreasing radius around the site where eggs may be laid separately has been observed. The eggs are oval and have a white-yellowish color. As they don’t need to land for laying eggs, blocked entries that wouldn’t permit the female adult fitting through, can still be reached. Locations are often hollow tree holes and waterish places where other mosquito species also lay eggs. By spreading the eggs widely cannibalism is minimized. The larvae stage is the second stage. During this period, they have a reddish or dark brown appearance with distinct hairs on its abdomen. It is throughout this phase where the protein rich diet mainly targets larvae of other species and other aquatic organisms. It may grow up to 20 mm prior transformation during pupa, where it is maturing and able to fly. Light, temperature and available preys in its surrounding contribute to the development and duration of this phase.

Scientific Classification:

The genus Toxorhynchites, which includes the Elephant Mosquito that we also term Mosquito Eater, contains over 100 species. These are spread over just a handful of subgenera, the exact numbers may be debatable though. Within the order of Diptera and suborder Nematocera, the Toxorhynchites genus is classified in the Culicidae Family, just like the Aedes genus. Diptera insects, flies, have a single pair of wings for flying. Their hindwings act as highly responsive to allow rapid change of direction and maneuverings. The suborder Nematocera encompasses mosquitoes, gnats, crane flies and many more.

Geography and Climate:

Toxorhynchites have a global footprint, but different geographical areas may home different species. Earth’s Equator, which is a 0° imaginary line with equal distances to its poles, shows an annual mean surface temperature of +30°C, a lot of sunlight and generally a tropical rainforest climate in the lowlands. Toxorhynchites live in the +/-35 degrees range, both north and south of the equator. The majority of Toxorhynchites species reside in tropical areas. Subset of species are also current in places like (north) America, Australia, Asia, India and more.
Geographically, in northern America the Toxorhynchites Rutilus, also branded as the treehole predatory mosquito, is not a very uncommon mosquito species. From the warmer southern states closest to the equator up to north America around the Great Lakes this mosquito can be found. A difference being that in the warmer states they can be observed all year round, where in the more northern states surviving winter frequently happens in a state of larvae. In the northern states the Toxorhynchites Amboinensis has roots as control agents, and in Central USA the Toxorhynchites Moctezuma are spotted in places like tree holes and slashed bamboo. In Australia Elephant Mosquitoes and the Toxorhynchites Speciosus are present near and around the east coast, New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland. It is here where the Elephant mosquito specie prey Tiger Mosquito larvae for example.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the Elephant mosquito is large and colorful, doesn’t bite humans, sleeps at night and prefers a warm climate. During the larvae lifecycle stage, it preys larvae and in adulthood their diet to maintain themselves changes to nectar and supplementary substances high on sugar. All in all, we probably won’t experience this mosquito keeping us awake at night. Still, it is not unobserved they may enter bedrooms or other rooms inside houses, lake houses or cottages. Their large size makes them easy to spot though and a mosquito racket probably does the trick before going to bed.

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