Science FAQs

Q: Where do I collect data?

Q: How can I use my data to better understand mosquitoes in my area?

Q: How can I use NASA satellite images and resources to better understand mosquitoes in my area?

Q: How can we use this data to make a difference in my community?

Q: How can I investigate mosquitoes with other GLOBE protocols?

Q: What type of mosquitoes are we looking for?

Q: What if the larva I see is not one of the three genera identified in the app?

Q: What if I don't see the features I need to determine the kind of mosquito I am looking at?

Q: Do you find only one species of mosquito in a sample?

Q: What is the mosquito life cycle?

Q: How do you identify which one is Anopheles, Aedes, or Culex larvae?

Q: What do the male mosquitoes feed on?

Q: At what seasons of the year are greater percentages of mosquito larvae found?

Q: Why are the mosquito larvae in my same different sizes?

Q: How long can I keep larvae samples?

Q: What do I do if adults emerge in my sample?

Q: How do I dispose of my mosquito sample?

 

Where do I collect data?
You can expect to find mosquitoes anywhere that provides a pool of water that allows
the larvae to grow and develop. Different mosquitoes prefer different habitats.
The yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypi) and the Asian tiger (Aedes albopictus)
mosquitoes are well adapted to human-built environments. Their ancestors preferred
tree holes as breeding sites, but now they seek out water sources near the humans and
animals where the female will find its blood meal to nourish its eggs. They now
preferentially seek out manufactured containers as breeding sites- from discarded water
bottles and tires to water tanks, sewers and flowerpots.

You can find a range of habitats on the GO Mosquito Habitat Mapper- take a look! You
can find larvae in water sources as small as a bottle cap and as large as a cistern.
Eliminating these habitats – by dumping out water or covering with a lid or net—will
mean less adults will be biting near your home and school making your family and
community safer from disease.

How can I use my data to better understand mosquitoes in my area?
This is a good question. It helps to start with a question or hypothesis: what do you want
to know? Do you want to know when you have the highest danger of mosquito bites?
Do you want to know what are the preferred breeding sites in your area? Do mosquitoes
in your area prefer clear or dirty water? What nutrients work best to attract mosquito
moms to lay eggs in your mosquito trap? Once you have a question, you can always
contact GLOBE scientists to help you refine your research design if you want a little
more help. See also the answer to Science Concepts, below!

How can I use NASA satellite images and resources to better understand mosquitoes in my area?

There are a number of NASA data portals you can use to explore satellite data and
examine it in conjunction with your field data. A good start is found in The Educator’s
Guide to NASA Earth Science Images and Data
. You can also browse other sources of data in
NASA Wavelength, NASA’s Earth and Space Science Education Library. There are tutorials online to learn how to access data from these sources. You can also
ask GLOBE scientists (GISN) to help you.

How can we use this data to make a difference in my community?
Many parts of the world do not have municipal mosquito monitoring or control programs.
Incidentally, this includes half of the United States! For this reason, surveillance,
reporting and taking breeding sites out of commission and use (especially sites in built
human environments) is critical. For diseases such as dengue, Zika, chikungunya and
other arboviruses for which there is no vaccine, there are only three lines of defense-
surveillance, mitigation and education. GLOBE Observer Mosquito Habitat Mapper does
all three!

If you are part of a local effort to map and report breeding sites in your community, let
the municipal government know. The public health department, mosquito control
agency, or local government may be interested in partnering with you. In many parts of
the world, including most of the U.S., the mosquito surveillance infrastructure is
inadequate in the face of emerging disease threats from invasive mosquitoes, so your
work will be welcomed.

How can I investigate mosquitoes with other GLOBE protocols?
Scientists researching and predicting future mosquito borne disease epidemics use
temperature, precipitation, and land cover data from satellites in their models. These
data collected on the ground using GLOBE protocols are extremely useful. There is still

a lot that is not known about mosquito ecology and microhabitats- and one reason why
is that mosquitoes are constantly adapting to new conditions. Some mosquitoes that
always favored clean clear water a decade ago are now found in sewers. There are a
lot of rudimentary science questions that can be explored by examining multiple data
sources!

What type of mosquitoes are we looking for?
The app is optimized for use in identifying the Yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti)
and the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus). GLOBE Observer selected these two
because they are found worldwide and the adults of these species have the potential to
transmit pathogens causing several human diseases. Using the app and a macrolens
you can identify your specimen to genus (Aedes) or species (A. albopictus or A.
aegypti).

You can use the app to identify Culex and Anopheles genera. Some species of Culex
are vectors for West Nile Virus. If you find Culex mosquitoes, you can consult a local
key to see what species you have.

Anopheles is a genera of which some species of mosquitoes that transmit the
pathogens that cause malaria. The responsible species are different in different parts of
the world, so once again, you will want to consult a key.

What if the larva I see is not one of the three genera identified in the app?
Remember that most mosquitoes you find will not be from these three types-there are
more than 3,500 species of mosquitoes. Most mosquitoes do not transmit disease-
instead, they play an important role in the ecosystem, as pollinators and as food for
bats, birds and aquatic organisms. You can select “other” as your species, and then
mitigate the habitat as you would for one of our three genera.

What if I don’t see the features I need to determine the kind of mosquito I am looking at?
Not all specimens can be identified! A specimen might be damaged- such damaged can
occur if the larva is caught in a net, for example. Other specimens do not have clear
features that you can use to identify: maybe your specimen is from the 1 st -3 rd instar and
the features are not fully mature so you can’t use them to determine your genera or
species. Sometimes, the larva is lying in such a way you can’t see the features. Before
you give up, use a toothpick to gently move the mosquito so that the features are all in
full view. The app shows an image of how the mosquito should be positioned for
identification. You may look at 2 or 3 mosquito larvae in your sample before you make a
final determination.

Do you find only one species of mosquito in a sample?
Not always! It is common to find only one species in a sample, but it’s good to check a
few specimens just to be sure.

What is the mosquito life cycle? It is variable, based on environmental conditions- this is
approximate!

Adult mosquitoes lay eggs.  Eggs then turn into larvae after two or three days. The larval stage lasts for four or five days until larvae become pupae.  The pupae stage lasts for one or two days, after which, the pupae become adult mosquitoes.

How do you identify which one is the Anopheles, Aedes or Culex larvae?
We can see the characteristics of mosquito larvae: In the water, Anopheles larvae cling parallel
with the water surface. On the other hand, Aedes and Culex larvae cling at an angle of 45° with
the side  of the container. Aedes larvae have shorter, spindle shaped siphons, Culex larvae tend
to have longer, cylindrical siphons. However, there are 3,500 species of mosquitoes, so you
should consult a key for your area to be sure.

What do the male mosquitoes feed on?
Male mosquitoes feed on any sugar source, including flowers, fruit, nectar and other insects.
Some mosquitoes are important pollinators, like bees!

At what seasons of the year are greater percentages of mosquito larvae found?
Most often they are found in the rainy season or shortly after the end of the rainy season.

Why are the mosquito larvae in my sample different sizes?
After hatching from its egg, the larva is in its first instar (stage between molts). It eventually
outgrows its exoskeleton and molts (loses its outer covering) to become a second instar.  It
does this two more times to reach the fourth instar. The fourth instar is the larval stage that is
most visible, reaching a length of one-half inch. The features used to identify your specimen are
seen on the 4th instar larva- so look for the biggest larvae in your sample.

If you can’t distinguish any features, it is possible that the larvae are still in an earlier instar
stages. If that is the case, you can count your larvae, but you will not be able to identify
features.The 4th instar will molt to become a pupa, another stage in the life cycle of a mosquito.  Pupa are distinguished by their appearance- they look like a comma. You may find pupae in your sample.

How long can I keep larvae samples?
Depending on the temperature and nutrients, larvae develop into pupae after a few
days- week. A pupa will develop into an adult within a day or two.

If you want to collect larvae and identify a day or two later, it’s a good idea to put the
larvae in alcohol. You can also refrigerate to slow down their development.

What do I do if adults emerge in my sample?
You don’t want to get bitten by the adults, so gently shake or turn the sample over and
drown the adults.

How do I dispose of my mosquito sample?
Mosquito larvae are harmless, you can throw out the water sample on the ground or in
the grass.