Mosquitoes are scary.
They are the vectors of malaria, Zika virus, dengue fever, and many other deadly diseases. Their bites are irritating, but what is most annoying is the buzzing sound they make.
There are more than 3,500 mosquito species, so if you mistake a tiny flying insect for a mosquito, you are not alone. There are quite a few bugs that look like mosquitoes.
These insects are not carriers of deadly diseases but can still be annoying. Keep reading to learn about some bugs that are commonly mistaken as mosquitoes.
5 Bugs That Look Like Mosquitoes
Here are 5 bugs that you may have confused with a mosquito.
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Midges are the most common bugs that are mistaken for mosquitoes. They are not harmful but are still a nuisance, especially in areas with water bodies.
These insects are seen in swarms or clouds over houses, cars, entryways, porches, and on walls and fences. They are usually seen swarming over outside lighting. While most species are non-biting, some species feed on the blood of humans and animals and even transfer diseases. Non-biting midges usually feed on nectar or insect body fluids.
Midges are highly adaptive insects that are found all over the world, except in frigid zones and arid deserts. Adult midges have a short lifespan, typically around seven days, depending on the species. Their life span also depends greatly on the weather conditions. The insects reproduce in aquatic environments, and they deposit larvae in areas with standing water.
Midgets are an ecologically important species. Besides being a good food source for insectivores, midgets are natural pollinators.
2. Crane Flies
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Crane flies are a group of insects falling under the family Tipulidae. They have mosquito-like bodies but are generally much larger, reaching a length between 1 and 2 inches.
Their slender legs and long bodies have earned them many nicknames like “mosquito eaters”, “mosquito hawks”, “ daddy longlegs”, and “skeeter-eaters”. And while most of their names hint at them being insectivores, it is a misnomer. These non-biting insects do not feed on mosquitoes, either.
So, what do they feed on?
Some species of crane flies feed on nectar, while others live off decaying vegetation sources, decomposing organic materials. This makes them ecologically important, as the decomposition of organic matter makes the soil more fertile.
However, the larvae forms of some species can cause significant damage to farming crops and are thus considered agricultural pests. The larvae can also damage lawns, so it is necessary to identify and remove them.
Crane flies are generally found near damp areas and areas with abundant vegetation. The adult female deposits its eggs in moist areas, and a long, slender larva hatches from each egg. The larvae feed in winter and rest in spring. The exact feeding habits of the adults are still not known.
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Mayflies are a group of insects that have a very short life. In fact, the name “mayfly” is a Greek word meaning “living a day”. Mayflies are also known by many other names, like drake, fishfly, shadfly, dayfly, Canadian soldiers, and sandfly.
They are aquatic insects that emerge in large numbers during the summer months. Most of the species are found in streams; however, some are found in brackish waters and other moist environments as well.
The main characteristics of the flies are their transparent wings, with forewings larger than hindwings—and occasionally, hindwings are absent altogether.
Mayflies do not have a pupal stage. The females dip their abdomens in the water to lay their eggs. The larvae directly transition into the adult stage. The eggs develop into nymphs or naiad, which is the aquatic, immature stage.
At the nymph stage, the insects have gills and live in the water. They feed on plant detritus and algae, and some species may take up to three years to mature. Their eating pattern makes them an important part of the energy transfer cycle.
When the nymph is ready to transition to the subimago stage, they travel to the water’s surface and break free. They are still slow flyers and will need one more molting to fly well and reproduce.
The adult flies attract attention when they emerge in huge masses and create a nuisance by clogging gutters, making roads slippery, and tainting the air with the odor of decay.
4. Wood Gnats
Another insect that looks very similar to mosquitoes is the wood gnat. They are gnat-like flies that belong to the family of Anisopodidae.
They are small to medium-sized, so they are easily confused with mosquitoes. But they can be distinguished on the basis of location. When they enter homes, adult flies are seen swarming over plants or light. Otherwise, they are found near damp places.
The larvae are found near or in decaying wood, animal manure, sewage, mud, decaying vegetation, and tree trunks.
5. Winter Crane Flies
The Winter Crane Flies, or Trichoceridae, belong to the family Diptera and appear similar to the crane flies. However, their eyes (ocelli) distinguish them from crane flies. They get their bane as they are active even during the winter.
They are a small family of insects with no more than 200 species. Also, they do not have any ecological importance except that they are a good source of protein for birds in winter.
The flies are found on porches, in mines, caves, hollow trees, and decaying logs. The larvae are found in damp areas that have organic decay matter. For example, in rodent burrows, stored root vegetables, manure, caves, fungi, and underleaf litter. They live off rotting plant matter and, sometimes, even on carrion and dung. Adults do not eat anything and are readily attracted to light.
Winter crane flies are distinguished by the mating swarms formed by the males. Hundreds and sometimes thousands of male flies swarm over large and open woodlands, bobbing up and down a few feet above the ground. The females join the swarm to find a partner and then return to the ground to lay eggs.