You may have heard that male mosquitoes don’t bite humans; only females do so. But have you ever thought about why it is so? Why do females need blood, but males don’t. And even more so, what do males eat then? Let’s find out!
Female mosquitoes bite humans because they have to produce eggs and thus need better nutrition. And better nutrition, of course, is blood. How come.
Blood provides nutrition and induces egg production
Blood is packed with proteins necessary to make mosquito eggs (if you need to refresh what proteins are, see here). Reproduction, unfortunately, in many species is costlier for females, and they need to consume a lot to raise offspring.
You may have heard that a mom must eat for two. Mosquito mom must eat for dozens.
Many mosquito species (including regular ones, like common house mosquitoes, yellow fever mosquitoes, and malaria-causing mosquitoes from genius Anopheles) won’t even physiologically be able to produce eggs without blood meal.
They need a specific hormone found only in blood to turn on egg production. That is nature’s clever way of saying, don’t have kids if you can’t afford them.
Each blood meal allows a mosquito female to lay a single batch of eggs. There are species that can lay the first batch without a blood meal, but they will need blood for further batches anyway. A female typically lays a batch every few days, but it depends on the species.
The bigger the meal, the larger the next batch of eggs will be. The consequence is that females must eat blood every few days. They MUST; it’s not a choice.
Anyway. So, the female mosquitoes are the only ones that drink blood. But what about the other half of the population?
What do male mosquitoes eat?
Male mosquitoes are more peaceful. Their proboscises are shorter and not as sharp, so they wouldn’t be able to pierce through human skin. However, they do pierce through flowers, and, just like bees, male mosquitoes eat nectar.
In fact, many mosquito species are also pollinators (including the regular ones again). Their role as pollinators is not as irreplaceable as that of bees, bumblebees, and butterflies, and we actually know quite little about it. However, I think there goes humankind’s plan to eradicate mosquitoes, along with malaria on this planet.
So, if someone asks what’s the point of mosquitoes (I get that a lot), you’ll know what to answer.
Females, by the way, also feed on nectar. If blood is accessible, they will go for it, but in many species, females often feed on nectar as frequently as males do and mostly can’t live on blood alone. Aside from, of course, those species that feed on nectar exclusively.
Nectar provides sugar as easy-to-digest energy. Blood is a bit harder to process but, in total, is more nutritious than nectar. Blood contains about 12 calories per milliliter, whereas each milliliter of nectar consists of only 1 calorie. It ain’t much, but it’s honest work that carries a much lower risk of getting yourself killed.
Thus, now you know why only female mosquitoes consume blood. First, it provides nutrients to produce eggs. Something they just can’t do without. Second, it’s bloody dangerous, so evolution did not bother to give sweet tooth for a bloody good meal to male mosquitoes.
Want to dive deeper into the world of mosquitoes?
Read “The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator” by Timothy C. Winegard.
A story of how mosquitoes shaped human history.
Disclaimer: I earn a commission if you buy the book through my link.