Left: example larva of the genus Toxorhynchites recovered from one of the author's research traps. Right: Larval specimen of prey, Culex quinquefasciatus, for comparison. Toxorhynchites are predator larvae and easily recognized by their unique morphology and larger size. Photo credit: Author.
Toxorhynchites is part of the mosquito family (Culicidae), also known as the “elephant mosquito” and “mosquito eater” and for good reason! These formidable larvae use their mandibles to prey on the larvae of other mosquitoes inhabiting the same container, as well as larvae of its own species. Quite amazingly, the female adult Toxorhynchites rutilus septentrionalis, for example, has been shown to oviposition where other larvae exists, including vectors such as Ae. aegypti and albopictus. Moreover, Toxorhynchites consume enough fat and protein as larvae to complete oogenesis and vitellogenesis and do not require a blood meal in order to lay eggs as adults. Instead, Toxorhynchites feed on sugars such as nectar and are therefore non-biting and harmless to humans. All of the foregoing make Toxorhynchites a truly beneficial mosquito and one that has attracted interest for its use as a biocontrol agent against medically significant container breeding mosquito vectors. Toxorhynchites is also the biggest mosquito in the United States, drawing nectar through its sloped proboscis akin to an elephant’s trunk, hence the name “elephant mosquito.”
Parker L. is a high school student from Texas who is working on a research project this summer using the GLOBE Observer Mosquito Habitat Mapper. His virtual internship is part of a collaboration between GLOBE Mission Mosquito and the NASA Texas Space Grant Consortium (TSGC) to extend the TSGC Summer Enhancement in Earth Science (SEES) internship for U.S. high school (http://www.tsgc.utexas.edu/sees-internship/). He shares his experience so far this summer in this guest blog post.