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Do Mosquitoes Bite or Sting?

What is a mosquito bite? Do mosquitoes bite you like a dog or do they sting you like a wasp? The answer to that is neither. They stick a needle in you and suck your blood out, just as a nurse takes a blood sample from your arm. This probably needs a bit more explaining so you understand fully, so here is what mosquitoes do when they ‘bite’ you.

Do Mosquitoes Bite?

No, and here is why. First they must detect you. Mosquitoes can detect your sweat and the carbon dioxide you breath out from as far as 55 yards away – more than half the length of a football field. Once they have detected you they zoom in on you, and as they close in your signals to them get increasingly stronger. Then they land.

Mosquitoes are very light and the first most know of their presence is when they ‘bite’ you – only they aren’t biting. They are sticking a needle in you. Check out this image:

You can see a long proboscis on the mosquito jabbing into victim’s skin. This is just like a hypodermic needle, with a channel running up its center. The mosquito finds a vein or capillary and then sucks your blood up through the needle.

The reasons only females ‘bite’ is because they need your blood to create their eggs. They extract the protein from the blood and use that for their eggs. We will continue to use the term ‘bite’ because it is the most common term, but the insect is not really biting you – it is sucking your blood! Both males and females feed from plant nectar.

So What Is a Mosquito Bite?

So it’s not a bite! Neither is it a sting. Stings are also needles, but stings inject something into you rather than draw blood from you. Stings commonly contain peptides, enzymes, histamine and other proteins according to the insect. They activate nerve cells to give the sensation of pain – sometimes very severe.

Mosquitoes do not sting in this way. They inject you with their proboscis which then moves around and probes until it finds a blood vessel. The proboscis contains two tubes, unlike just the one in a hypodermic syringe. It uses one of these tubes to inject saliva that contains a mix of chemicals to reduce pain, thin your blood and prevent it from clotting. The other is used to suck up your blood.

How Do Mosquitoes Pass On Viruses?

The mosquito’s saliva can carry viruses that it received from hosts that it had attacked previously. It is these viruses that pass on the diseases associated with mosquitoes. Different species of mosquito can carry different types of virus. That is why the Zika virus is spread by daytime-active Aedes mosquitoes, such as A. aegypti and A. albopictus. The same mosquito can also spread dengue and chikungunya viruses.

So no, mosquitoes do not bite in the regular sense of the word, but neither does it sting. So ‘bite’ is used for convenience. It is only the female that bites, because it is only the female mosquito that needs your protein for its eggs! And mosquitoes suck!

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