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June to August is prime mosquito season and that means itchy, annoying bites. On top of those itchy bites, mosquitoes are also responsible for spreading diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, encephalitis, West Nile virus and the Zika virus.
Below you will read some facts and tips about mosquito bites as well as learn about some mosquito species found in the U.S. and common mosquito-borne diseases associated with these species.
Did you know that only female mosquitoes bite? Male mosquitoes do not rely on human blood to develop and only feed on the nectar of flowers. Female mosquitoes bite to engorge themselves on a cocktail of our blood. Our blood is rich in protein and other compounds that female mosquitoes need to help produce and develop their eggs.
There is no limit to the number of mosquito bites one of the insects can inflict. A female mosquito will continue to bite and feed on blood until she is full. After they have consumed enough blood, the mosquito will rest for a couple of days (usually between two to three days) before laying her eggs. Once this is complete she is ready to bite again.
Like most insect bites, mosquito bites come in the form of swollen, red bumps. However, this can vary as different people react to mosquito bites in different ways.
Even though mosquito bites share some similarities in their appearance with other insect bites, there are some differences that can help you identify them. Mosquito bites can appear anywhere on your body, particularly in areas where the skin is exposed, such as arms and legs.
Mosquito bites are itchy because of how your body reacts to the mosquito bite itself. The bites swell and itch because your body is having a very mild allergic reaction to the mosquito’s saliva. As the blood vessels around the bitten area begin to swell, the nerves become irritated. To combat the anticoagulant delivered by the mosquito's saliva, your body releases a histamine, making the area around the bite inflamed and itchy.
The mosquito's proboscis is sharp at the end with parts that can quickly pierce the skin. When the mosquito lands, her senses allow her to find just the right spot to pierce the skin and access the blood. The mosquito then injects saliva that prevents clotting and numbs the area so you don't feel the bite, allowing the mosquito to feed undisturbed. When mosquitoes fly away, they leave behind saliva that prevents clotting and anesthetizes the area. This is where your body takes over. It sees the mosquito saliva as a foreign substance and attacks those substances, leading to an allergic reaction.
For most people, mosquito bites cause a minor allergic reaction, and it doesn’t go past these symptoms. However, some people can suffer from severe allergic reactions to mosquito bites. In these cases, we recommend that you visit your doctor for treatment.
Of course, once the bite starts itching the first thing you want to do is scratch until it feels better. Unfortunately, that’s the last thing you should do. Below are two reasons why you shouldn’t itch.
Generally, if you can resist scratching the bite and infecting the wound, a mosquito bite will not need any treatment. However, if you feel the need to treat the bite, consider the following:
If you notice anything severe or out of the ordinary happening, visit a doctor immediately.
There are more than 180 mosquito species in North America. Below you will find three species commonly associated with disease spread.
(Culex Pipiens) Found in the entire U.S.
(Aedes Aegypti) Found in Southern United States
(Aedes Albopictus) Found in Southern California & SW U.S.
Mosquito bites can be more than just annoying and itchy. They can spread viruses that can cause serious illness in humans including:
Don’t forget to protect your pets, too! The parasite that causes heartworm in dogs is spread through mosquito bites. Horses can also be at risk for mosquito borne illnesses.
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