Do Mosquitoes Sleep? Uncovering the Truth About Insect Slumber

Mosquitoes are well-known for their annoying habit of biting humans and animals, which can lead to itchiness and even the spread of diseases. But have you ever wondered if these pesky insects have a sleep pattern similar to ours?

Although mosquitoes don’t have eyelids or follow the same sleep patterns as mammals, they do have periods of rest and activity. For example, some species of mosquitoes are more active during the day, while others prefer the night. Understanding their behavioral patterns can help in reducing their impact and controlling the spread of mosquito-borne diseases.

Research on mosquitoes indicates that they have a circadian rhythm, which means that their activity levels change throughout the day and night. This can be influenced by factors such as temperature and light. So while they might not sleep like humans, mosquitoes do exhibit a rest-activity cycle that affects their behavior.

Do Mosquitoes Sleep?

Sleep-like States

Though there isn’t extensive research on mosquitoes’ sleep, there’s evidence suggesting they experience sleep-like states. For instance, mosquitoes exhibit periods of inactivity that could be considered sleep-like, with behaviors such as:

  • Resting on surfaces
  • Quieter buzzing or silence
  • Reduced feeding or mating activities

Circadian Rhythms

Mosquitoes have circadian rhythms, like other organisms, influencing important aspects of their lives:

  • Activity: Mosquitoes are mostly active during certain times of day.
  • Feeding: The timing of blood meals is affected by circadian rhythms.
  • Immunity: Mosquitoes’ immune system functions vary with their circadian cycle.

It is thought that sleep might play a role in regulating mosquito circadian rhythms, contributing to their overall health, and helping them adapt to changes in their environment.

Mosquito Activity and Resting Patterns

Active Hours

Mosquitoes are not known to have a clearly defined sleep pattern, but they do have periods of rest and activity. Most mosquito species are most active during dusk and dawn. However, there are some species that are active during the day, such as the Aedes mosquitoes.

  • Dusk and dawn breeders: majority of mosquito species
  • Day breeders: Aedes mosquitoes

Effects of Temperature and Weather

Temperature and weather have a significant impact on mosquito activity. Higher temperatures usually lead to more active mosquitoes as they prefer warmer climates. On the other hand, cold temperatures tend to slow down or even halt their activity.

  • Warm temperatures: increased activity
  • Cold temperatures: reduced activity

Rainfall also has an impact on mosquito activity. Rain can typically increase mosquito populations as it provides opportunities for them to lay their eggs. However, heavy rainfall can also control mosquito populations by flushing away larvae from breeding sites.

Here is a comparison table of mosquito activity based on temperature and weather:

Temperature/Weather Mosquito Activity
Warm temperatures Increased
Cold temperatures Reduced
Rain Varies

In conclusion, mosquitoes do not have a specific sleep pattern, but they do have times when they are more or less active, depending on species, temperature, and weather.

Mosquitoes and Disease Transmission

Malaria and Anopheles Mosquitoes

  • Anopheles mosquitoes are responsible for transmitting malaria.
  • Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by the Plasmodium parasite.

For example, Anopheles freeborni and Anopheles quadrimaculatus are two species that can transmit malaria in the United States (source: CDC). Malaria mainly affects children, pregnant women, and travelers in certain parts of the world.

Culex Mosquitoes and Other Diseases

  • Culex mosquitoes transmit multiple diseases.
  • Diseases include West Nile virus, Japanese encephalitis, and St. Louis encephalitis.

Two examples of Culex mosquitoes are Culex tarsalis and Culex quinquefasciatus (source: CDC).

Comparison Table: Anopheles vs. Culex Mosquitoes

Feature Anopheles Culex
Diseases transmitted Malaria West Nile virus, Japanese encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis
Example species Anopheles freeborni, Anopheles quadrimaculatus Culex tarsalis, Culex quinquefasciatus

Overall, it is crucial to protect ourselves from mosquito bites to reduce the risk of disease transmission.

Mosquito Habitats and Their Impact on Activity

Winter and Hibernation

Mosquitoes, such as the Asian tiger mosquito, are usually inactive during cold weather. Some species hibernate in winters, while others lay their eggs in standing water before the temperature drops.

Backyard Breeding Sites

Backyards often provide ideal breeding sites for mosquitoes. Examples of common backyard breeding sites are:

  • Birdbaths
  • Pools
  • Clogged gutters
  • Containers with standing water

To minimize mosquito breeding, regularly clean birdbaths and pools, and remove standing water.

Indoor and Outdoor Resting Places

Mosquitoes rest during the day and are most active at dawn and dusk. Their preferred resting places include:

Outdoors:

  • Tall grasses
  • Brush
  • Shaded areas

Indoors:

  • Dark corners
  • Under furniture
  • Closets

To reduce mosquito resting sites, maintain a well-trimmed lawn and eliminate indoor clutter.

Comparison Table: Outdoor vs. Indoor Mosquito Resting Places

Outdoor Resting Places Indoor Resting Places
Tall grasses Dark corners
Brush Under furniture
Shaded areas Closets

Removing resting places and breeding sites, as well as using repellents and screens, helps minimize mosquito populations during mosquito season and keeps the irritating buzz at bay.

Comparison with Other Insects

Sleep Deprivation in Flies

Sleep deprivation is a well-studied phenomenon in the animal kingdom. In the case of flies, like the Drosophila melanogaster, research has provided valuable insights into the effects of sleep deprivation. These tiny creatures exhibit a high sensitivity to sleep loss, displaying significant behavioral and cognitive impairments.

On the other hand, mosquitoes are known to be more active during certain periods of the day, depending on species and climate. Unlike flies, sleep deprivation in mosquitoes has not been studied extensively, and the impact on their behavior and health remains unclear.

Sleep Patterns in Bed Bugs

Blood-feeding arthropods, such as bed bugs, exhibit unique sleep patterns. Bed bugs are typically nocturnal insects, actively seeking their hosts during the night. When not feeding, they tend to remain hidden and inactive, which may resemble a sleep-like state. However, bed bugs do not experience hibernation like some other insects during unfavorable climate conditions.

In comparison, mosquitoes rest during daylight hours and become active when the sun starts to set. Unlike bed bugs, some mosquito species, such as certain Culex and Anopheles species, can undergo hibernation during colder seasons.

Key Differences:

  • Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) are sensitive to sleep deprivation, while the effects in mosquitoes remain unclear
  • Flies exhibit significant behavioral and cognitive impairments as a result of sleep deprivation
  • Mosquitoes are more active during specific periods of the day, whereas bed bugs are nocturnal in nature
  • Mosquito species like Culex and Anopheles can undergo hibernation during unfavorable climate conditions, but bed bugs do not

Key Similarities:

  • Both flies and mosquitoes are insects that belong to the animal kingdom
  • Bed bugs and mosquitoes are both blood-feeding arthropods, although their feeding habits and sleep patterns vary

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Mosquito Pupa, AKA Tumbler

 

Subject: Baffled by Big Black Bug
Location: Beaverton, OR
April 26, 2014 7:41 pm
Daniel,
Just in case it’s interesting, here’s another picture from the same excursion of a tiny critter we found in a pond.  My “Pond Life” book leads me to believe it’s not a larva but a mosquito pupa. I had no idea that pupas could be free swimming, lively animals as opposed to motionless inside a cocoon!
Thank you again,
Laura

Tumbler, AKA Mosquito Pupa
Tumbler, AKA Mosquito Pupa

Hi Laura,
Thank you for sending in your excellent image of a Mosquito Pupa, or Tumbler as it is sometimes called.  Mosquito Pupae are incredibly mobile, and they are also capable of sensing danger, tumbling away from the water surface and into the depths.  Mosquito Larvae are called Wrigglers because of the way they move through the water, and the tumbling motion of the Pupae led to the common name Tumblers.

Letter 2 – Mosquito Tumbler

 

Mosquito Larva?
Hello Bugman,
I am wondering if this is a mosquito larva. I found it (and many other interesting things) in the water on the cover of our pool prior to us opening the pool for the season. There were also many tiny wiggly worms and even some red water mites. We had our own little swamp going in our backyard! The water doesn’t usually get so swampish, but we’ve had cooler than usual temperatures here, and the opening of our pool happened about 3 weeks later than usual. I have pictures of all of them, but will stick with just the mosquito larva (if that’s what it is) for now, for I know you are very busy. Thanks!
Yvonne,
Barrie , Ontario

Hi Yvonne,
You have been such a loyal contributor for so many years, we try to answer your letters whenever possible. Mosquito Larvae are known as Wrigglers, and this is a Tumbler, a Mosquito Pupa. The name Wrigglers and Tumblers refers to their methods of locomotion through the water. BugGuide has a great photo of a Tumbler, ane we located another website with photos of the other stages of Mosquito Metamorphosis.

Letter 3 – Mosquitoes under floor boards in UK???

 

Found under my floor.
Mon, Nov 24, 2008 at 3:38 PM
Hi,
I am busy doing some house renovations and on lifting some of my floor boards I found about 2-3 dozen of these critters standing on the under side of the floor boards. They seem reasonably inactive, most of them are just stood there, 1 or 2 are flying around. Since then I have also spotted 2-3 flying round in the rooms of the house. The conditions under the floor boards are cold and damp, bare soil is present.
I am on the North East coast of the UK, and it is a fairly wet and cold mid November at the minute.
The reason for wanting to know what they are is mild concern that they may be the adult form of something detrimental to wood.
Overall length of the body is around 9-10mm, as scale isn’t clear in the pics.
Cheers, Cam.
North East UK

Mosquito from UK
Mosquito from UK

Hi Cam,
These sure look like Mosquitoes to us, but we can’t figure out what they are doing under the floor boards. Perhaps there is a stagnant water source nearby where they are developing. Perhaps one of our readers can share some insight. The Mosquitoes won’t harm your floor, but the females may bite you and your family and tropical species especially are important disease vectors.

Mosquito from UK
Mosquito from UK

Hi, Daniel:
Wow, you have been very busy posting!  I turn my back for a week and….wham!  LOL!
Ok, the mosquitoes may be overwintering as adults, don’t know.  Just contact someone locally in L.A. in vector control at the public health department for a better explanation.  Mosquitoes I don’t know that much about, honestly….
Eric

Correction Courtesy of Angel van Gulik:  January 17, 2017
This one is most likely a Culex pipiens.  The shape and coloration of the abdomen, along with indoor overwintering behavior is typical of that species, and it is the most common mosquito found in England.  I can’t ID to 100% certainty only because I would have to view the white “stripes” on the abdomen very closely to see whether they come to a pinch along the edge or not to rule out Culex salinarious.

Letter 4 – Mosquitos!

 

To whom it may concern:
I am in desperate need of assistance in identifying mosquitoes. I am doing a Science Fair Project and have created a new trap to capture mosquitoes. But I would like to know what I cought. I cannot tell for sure if they are all mosquitoes, or also midges, possibly Punkies/ "no-see-ums".
I have done a lot of research and am unable to find how to identify them and would greatly appreciate some expert advice. I went to the International Science Fair last year and know that good research and information is critical.
Also, if you know of, or how I could find what kind of mosquitoes are in my area please let me know. I live in Louisville (northern) Kentucky. From my research I know that the 2 main types of mosquitoes around here are Aedes and Culex, but I don’t know specifically if it is Aedes Aegypti or Culex molestus, etc.
Please respond quickly so that I can continue my research. I would sincerely appreciate any help offered.
Thank you,
Margaret Ann Stewart

Dear Margaret,
I am going to quote directly from Field Book of Insects by Frank E. Lutz. pp 239-240 since he is the real expert.
Culicidae
Everyone knows a Mosquito, or thinks that he does. The proboscis of the female is fitted for sucking but the male’s mouthparts are so rudimentary that he cannot "bite." His antennae are very plumose. The larvae are aquatic. They are the "Wrigglers" such as most of us have seen in standing water. Owing to the medical interest in mosquitoes they have been extensively studied. The following, among other, subfamilies ( or families) have been recognized.

1.–Proboscis, even of females, short, not fitted for piercing. Wings hairy, scaled only at margin. Mesosternum without ridge. Sternopleura divided by transverse suture. Corethrinae. The transparent, predacious larvae use their antennae in capturing prey. They get their oxygen by absorption from the water. The eyes of these Phantom Larvae are dark. The two other pairs of dark spots are "air sacs." I do not know how the air, if it be real air, gets into them. The pupae float upright and have respiratory trumpets on their heads.
Proboscis much longer than head; the female’s fitted for piercing. Wings fully scaled. Mesosternum ridged.

2.–Palpi of female at least a third longer than the proboscis. Abdomen sometimes without scales. Scutellum crescent shaped, with marginal bristles evenly distributed. –Anophelinae.
Not so.

3.–Scutellum evenly rounded. Clypeua much broader than long. Calypteres not ciliated. Day-flying, not biting Megarhininae.

Scutellum trilobed, with marginal bristles only on the lobes.

4.–Base of hind coxae in line with upper margin of lateral metastenal sclerite, a small triangular piece between bases of middle and hind coxae. Day-fliers.–Sabethinae. The larvae of Wyeomiyis smithii live in the water in pitcher plant leaves.
Not so.–Chiefly Culicinae (anal vein extending well beyond fork of cubitus) but also Uranotaeniinae.
The eggs of Anopheles are laid singly, each having a lateral "float." The larvae are rarely found in foul or brackish water. Unlike Culicinae, the breathing siphon on the end of the abdomen is very short and a resting larva floats horizontally. Adults usually have spotted wings. They are to be feared because they may be carrying malarial "germs" which they sucked in along with the blood of a former victim. If so and if the malarial organism had worked its way from the mosquito’s stomach to its salivary glands, the mosquito biting us is likely to infect us with malaria.
The many species of Culicinae have been divided into genera on technical characters. Most of what we called Culex are now Aedes. The tropical A. aegypti (also called Stegomyia fasciata) carries yellow fever and dengue. Such Tropical diseases as dengue and filariasis are carried also by other Culicine females. The eggs of Culex are laid in a floating, raft-like mass; those of Aedes singly. The salt-marsh mosquitoes with banded legs are Aedes. The larva of Taeniorhynchus (=Mansonia) perturbans sticks its breathing siphon into the air-chambers of aquatic plants instead of coming to the surface to breathe.
So Margaret, as you can see, taxonomy is rather complicated, and I didn’t even get into midges and punkies. Good luck with your science project.

Letter 5 – Mystery: Male Non-Biting Midge, but what species???

 

ID request
April 23, 2010
This pic was taken in a wetlands area in Odenton, MD on 4/222/10 around 7:30pm. If you can identify it, please let me know what it is. Thanks!
Wondering999
Odenton MD

Male Non-Biting Midge

Dear Wondering999,
We believe this is a Mosquito, but we are uncertain of the species.  The feathery antennae indicate that it is a male, and only female Mosquitoes bite and suck blood.  Male Mosquitoes feed on nectar.  Perhaps one of our readers will know the species and write in with further information.

Correction thanks to Karl
April 27, 2010
Hi Daniel and Wondering999:
It’s definitely a male, but it looks like a Non-Biting Midge (Chironomidae). They are closely related but adult non-biting midges are distinguished from mosquitoes (Culicidae) by the way the head is tucked under, the lack of scales on the wings, and the lack of elongated mouthparts (compare a male non-bighting midge to a male mosquito). Your question is “but what species???”. Although I am not prepared to go that far out on a limb, I believe it belongs to the subfamily Chironominae and tribe Chironomini, perhaps genus Chironomus. However, the Chironomids are a very difficult group and identifications really require some serious expertise. Non-biting midges are often mistaken for mosquitoes, which can sometimes be alarming because they tend to congregate in dense cloud-like mating swarms that can generate an impressive buzz. The swarms are often focused around the tops of trees or other prominent features on warm spring and summer evenings. They occur in vast numbers in most non-arid environments, in the water as larvae and in the air as adults, and they are a critical component of aquatic and terrestrial food webs. As the name suggests, they do not bite. Regards.
Karl

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Aquatic creature may be Mosquito Pupa

 

Subject: Molting aquatic life form
Location: Lucas County, Ohio
March 6, 2015 12:37 pm
One of my volunteers found this insect (I think), molting in her collecting tub of vernal pool water in mid-July in NW Ohio. The pool is isolated, nowhere near a creek, pond, or lake. The attached pictures are 20x if I remember correctly (other option is 40x) and were taken in the field. We watched it struggle free of the larval skin under the microscope. The skin shape reminds me of a damselfly nymph. Could this possibly be the pupal form? I’ve tried to count legs of both larvae and the skin, magnify head shape etc, but I am still stumped.
Signature: Eileen

Aquatic Bug
Aquatic Bug

Dear Eileen,
We cannot say for certain what creature this is, but we have some thoughts.  If the tub collected rain water, any insects present would need to have either developed from an egg laid by a flying insect or been transported from another water source on the bodies of a bird or other creature that visited the pool.  This creature reminds us somewhat of an aerial view of a mosquito tumbler, the pupal form.  Most images online are side views, but BugGuide does contain an aerial view that looks similar.  We hope someone more skilled at aquatic identifications can provide some input.

Aquatic Bug
Aquatic Bug

Hi Daniel,
Thanks for the reply. This was found in a collecting bucket, about a
quart of water taken from a huge vernal pool that has a wild egg bank
in the bottom of the pool when it is dry. I agree, it does resemble a
top view of a mosquito tumbler. It was definitely squirming out of the
nearby exoskeleton though, and the legs on that shell have spurs on
them – not found on mosquito larvae. It’s always possible that larvae
can get caught up in other exoskeletons as they’re wriggling about,
but in the one picture there are definite legs on the new critter.
Thanks very much for trying. I use this as an example for my
volunteers – there is always something new to be found in a vernal
pool and it can’t always be identified!
Eileen

Aquatic Bug
Aquatic Bug

Authors

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  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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2 thoughts on “Do Mosquitoes Sleep? Uncovering the Truth About Insect Slumber”

  1. They might be Chironomids too. According to BugGuide, “Larvae of most midges are aquatic; a few occur in decaying matter, under bark or in moist ground.” The floorboards sound like an ideal habitat for those latter few.

    For Cam’s sake I hope they’re midges (which don’t bite). I wouldn’t want all those mosquitoes in my house!

    Reply
  2. Hello Cam:

    They definitely look like female mosquitoes. In Canada our winters are little colder than in the UK and most adult mosquitoes die after the first hard autumn frost. However, late hatching adults in a number of species do overwinter by crawling into protected hiding places, including cold attics or basements if they can find a way in, and going into a state of torpor. They will also hide under loose bark, for example in a stack of firewood, and we occasional find a few flying around indoors in the dead of winter after hauling in some wood for the wood stove. Cheers. KK

    Reply

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