We all know how much mosquitoes like to dine on us – but what eats mosquitoes? While there are plenty of animals that eat mosquitoes - the purple martin, red-eared slider and various other reptiles and amphibians - mosquitoes don’t make up a significant portion of their diet. However, we’ve compiled a list of 5 of the most interesting creatures that choose mosquitoes as their dinner-of-choice. “Little Forest Bat in glove” photograph by Doug Beckers, CCPL, Source Flickr[/caption]
The Little Forest Bat
Vespadelus vulturnus, the little forest bat, is a microbat and a predator of mosquitoes. These bats, weighing in at only 3.5-6g and comparing in size to a sparrow, inhabit the eucalypt forests of south eastern Australia. These microbats are carnivorous, feasting upon flying insects that they typically catch on their wings. A study by the University of Sydney showed that their hunting range dramatically shifted in accordance with abundance of mosquitoes in a location. Mosquitoes are a very important part of the little forest bat’s diet.
With over 5,000 known species of dragonflies, these insects offer up the potential to decimate mosquito populations. As some of the first winged insects to evolve over 300 million years ago, fossils of this prehistoric helicopter indicate a wingspan of up to two feet! In both their larval and adult stages, dragonflies are known to eat mosquitoes. A single adult dragonfly can eat anywhere from 30 mosquitoes up to hundreds of these bloodsuckers per day – depending on what it’s in the mood for
Spiders will have the occasional mosquito snack – but often opt for other meals when available. However, two jumping spiders from two separate continents share a passion for the delicious mosquito. Evarcha culicivora and Paracyrba wanlessi are specialized in the art of capturing mosquitoes. These spiders will even ignore other insects in order to chow down on a mosquito. In East Africa, the Evarcha culicivora – dubbed the vampire spider – feasts upon female Anopheles mosquitoes that have just had a blood meal. Even more fascinating is that the vampire spider is the only known animal that chooses its prey based upon the prey’s diet. By consuming a blood-filled mosquito, the Evarcha culicivora become more attractive in the spider dating-scene. Paracyrba wanlessi stalks mosquitoes in the bamboo forests of Malaysia. This spider, described as being “like a miniature cat,” will hunt both adult and larval stage mosquitoes – regardless of whether the prey is empty or full. This mosquito is said to be hardwired to a preference for mosquitoes, even if they had never before been exposed to a mosquito (such as in a laboratory environment).
Yes, other mosquitoes! Toxorhynchites rutilus, aka the elephant mosquito or mosquito eater, is considered a beneficial pollinator – drinking up nectar from flowers and pollinating along the way. It is the larvae of this species that feed upon the larvae of other mosquitoes. As adults, unlike biting mosquitoes, both male and female elephant mosquitoes feed solely on flower nectar. Fun fact: Often confused for the real “mosquito eater” is the adult crane fly, which you may find bouncing around your walls and porch near lamplight. While completely harmless to you, it’s also completely harmless to mosquitoes. It has gone by such monikers as a mosquito hawk, skeeter eater, and giant mosquito – all of which are misnomers.
Camponotus schmitzi, an ant species native to Borneo, lives inside the stems of the pitcher plant Nepenthes bicalcarata. These ants are able to swim under the water inside of the pitcher plant to eat mosquitoes and mosquito larvae. This beneficial relationship keeps the ant colony fed and keeps mosquito larvae from stealing nutrients from the pitcher plant. Do you know of some other interesting critters that eat mosquitoes? Let us know in the comments, or tell us about it on your next visit to Facebook. Never miss an article; sign up for the Mosquito Magnet Newsletter for discounts and special offers!