Mosquitoes are everywhere. There are over 3,500 species described worldwide and widespread from the arctic to the equator. Although they are more well known in tropical countries' and warm humid landscapes, they are also known to occur in subtropical and temperate areas and even in the Alaska's Arctic gelid lands.
Besides being associated with infectious diseases, they also play crucial ecological roles. Mosquitoes provide essential biomass in the food chain and feeding invertebrate predators, birds, reptiles and amphibians. Surprisingly, they also play a role as pollinators of some plants. Some species also hunt other mosquito’s larvae, acting as biological control of vector species - vector mosquitoes are those that can transmit infectious pathogens like virus or parasites between humans, or from animals to humans.
Photo: Aedes vigilax. (c) Jeannie, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC).
Only a fraction of species is known to transmit mosquito-borne diseases globally. People are also surprised to learn that only the female bites and they use blood as a protein source to develop their eggs. Generally, vector mosquitoes are not borne infected; they need to bite an infected animal or human to transmit the pathogens to other animals. While we have learned a great deal about these species, there is still much that remains unknown by scientists.
Photo: Aedes notoscriptus. (c) Geoffrey Cox, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC).
That is why monitoring mosquitoes is so essential. Mosquito surveillance projects on the citizen science platform iNaturalist, like Mozzie Monitors, help us understand species diversity and distribution. They also reveal interactions such as the real-time of human-mosquito encounters, habits, behaviours, interactions with plants. Analysing mosquito observations observed on iNaturalist, show that urban, big and colourful species are the most common species recorded on the platform.
Such programs are also an engaging space where invertebrate lovers or people concerned about mosquito-borne diseases can learn how to identify different mosquito species with entomologists and researchers.
Indeed, observations of mosquitoes on iNaturalist allow us to explore local mosquito fauna, enhance the accuracy of identification tools on the platform, and celebrate the hidden beauty of these fascinating species.
The observations below are some examples of stunning shots shared on iNaturalist featuring the colours, patterns and scales of mosquitoes.
Photos: From the top left 1.Coquillettidia xanthogaster. (c) tony_d, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). 2.Aedes notoscriptus. (c) Reiner Richter, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA). 3.Anopheles annulipes. (c) Ellura Sanctuary, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-ND). 4.Toxorhynchites speciosus. (c) Orlando J. Bonney, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). 5.Aedes kochi. (c) Nick Lambert, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA). 6.Aedes vigilax. (c) andrew_allen, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC).
It is also worthwhile checking this observation of Sabethes cyaneus, in Regina, French Guiana. It is considered the most beautiful mosquito in the world with its iridescent purple colour and feathery legs. https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/15302897
We ask that you share your observations of mosquitoes on iNaturalist too, and join researchers exploring them. To help you here are some tips to take an identifiable photo:
Take photos of different angles if possible (dorsal, ventral, lateral);
Try to highlight the scales, bands, proboscis (elongated sucking mouthpart) and wings. Some species are very similar visually, so specific patterns help us differentiate them;
Use the ‘notes’ feature if you would like to share some behaviour you observed while taking the picture;
Experienced users may like to add ‘Observation Fields’ like “blood fed’ or what species the mosquito is feeding on;
Remember, it does not have to be a "professional" photo to be identifiable. Every observation is valuable to increase our knowledge of mosquito fauna observed on iNat;
Snap before you Slap! (But you can also register your shot on iNaturalist even if you slapped it before.)
Also, join us in the Great Southern Bioblitz 2021 and celebrate the beauty of animals, plants and fungi all over the southern hemisphere.
The Great Southern Bioblitz 2021 will be from the 22nd to the 25th of October this year. Join us in this initiative to celebrate biodiversity!
If you would like to be involved in setting up a project, please register with us.
Larissa Braz Sousa
PhD Candidate at the University of South Australia