Mosquito centipede is familiar to many since childhood. The intimidating appearance was often perceived as the appearance of “malarial mosquitoes” and caused fear among many. Although they are completely harmless insects that do not bite or sting. These insects look like an enlarged copy of the familiar mosquito. Everyone is afraid of a huge mosquito with long legs, hanging from the ceiling or flying around the room, but this creature is absolutely harmless to humans.
Origin of the species and description
Long-legged mosquitoes are known to mankind from Cretaceous and Tertiary amber deposits. The oldest evidence is Lebanese amber (Lower Cretaceous, about 130 million years old), the youngest example is found in Dominican amber, where it has been since the Miocene (Neogene period) from 15 to 40 million years. Representatives of more than 30 genera were found in Baltic amber, some of which still exist.
Video: Mosquito centipede
Fun Fact: Tipulidae — one of the largest groups of mosquitoes, including more than 526 genera and subgenera. Most mosquito weevils have been described by entomologist Charles Alexander, a mosquito specialist, in over 1,000 scientific publications.
The phylogenetic position of the Tipulidae mosquito remains undetermined. The classical view is that they are an early branch of the Diptera — possibly with winter mosquitoes (Trichoceridae), they are a related group of all other Diptera, — inferior to modern varieties. Taking into account the data of molecular studies, it is possible to compare derived characters of larvae similar to those of “higher” Diptera.
The Pediciidae and Tipulidae are related groups, the limoniids are paraphyletic clades, and the Cylindrotominae seem to be a relict group, much better represented in the Tertiary. Tipulidae mosquitoes may have evolved from ancestors in the Upper Jurassic. The oldest specimens of long-legged mosquitoes were found in the Upper Jurassic limestones. In addition, members of the family were found in the Cretaceous of Brazil and Spain, and later in the Khabarovsk Territory. Also, the remains of insect species can be found in the Eocene limestones near Verona.
Appearance and features
Long-legged mosquitoes (Tipulidae) are insects belonging to the Diptera family, the long-legged suborder. They represent the largest species of mosquitoes and reach a maximum body length of almost 40 mm and a wingspan of more than 50 mm. Despite their size, weevil mosquitoes have a very slender body and narrow wings.
The external color usually varies from gray to brown, in some genera it can be yellow and even black-yellow or black-red. The wings are most often black in color, and in the resting position they are laid back. Like all Diptera, the hind wings turn into swinging hinges (holders). In some species, the forewings are stunted. Their antennae have up to 19 segments. The insect also has a V-shaped seam on the chest.
The head is retracted, in the form of a “stigma”. It moves forward, making the proboscis very soft and able to absorb only liquids. The posterior end is clearly thickened and carries male fertilizing cells and female oviposition, formed from the appendages of the abdomen. There are long antennae on the head.
Long legs are affected, which often have predetermined break points and, accordingly, quickly come off. They are very elongated. In mosquitoes of weevils (with the exception of the genus Indotipula, the lower legs have large processes called spurs. In addition to two large compound eyes, some species have rudimentary eyes on their heads.
Now you know whether the mosquito is dangerous or not. Let's see, where do these insects live.
Where does the weevil mosquito live?
Insects live everywhere on all continents. They are absent only in arid waterless territories, on insignificant oceanic islands with year-round ice or snow cover, and in addition in the center of the Arctic + Antarctic. The fauna of the world is estimated at approximately 4200 species of insects. These very noticeable crumbs are represented by a large variety of species in almost every biogeographic region (excluding Antarctica).
The number of species present was distributed by region as follows:
- palearctic region — 1280 species;
- Nearctic kingdom — 573 species;
- Neotropical region — 805 species;
- Afrotropical region — 339 species;
- Indomalayan zone — 925 kinds;
- Australasia — 385 species.
The habitats of larvae are concentrated in all types of freshwater and semi-saline environments. Some species are found in moist cushions of mosses or marchantia mosses. Species of Ctenophora Meigen are found in rotting wood or sod logs. And the larvae of such species as Nephrotoma Meigen or Tipula Linnaeus are frequent guests of dry soils of pastures, steppes and lawns.
The larvae of the Tipulidae group are also found in rich organic soil and mud, in wet forest areas where there is a lot of saturated humus, in leaves or mud, decaying plant parts or fruits that are in various stages of decay. The larvae play an important role in the soil ecosystem as they recycle organic material and increase microbial activity in the sediment.
What does the weevil mosquito eat?
Adults feed on available open plant sap such as water and nectar, as well as pollen. They cannot absorb other denser foods through their mouthpieces. While the larvae absorb decaying plant remains, but also the tissues of living plants, which cause significant damage to forestry and agriculture. Most people misidentify large mosquitoes from this family as dangerous malarial mosquitoes. Many believe that they bite very painfully.
Interesting fact: The common assumption that centipede mosquitoes “sting” people has already been disproved by researchers by the fact that the sting of these mosquitoes cannot penetrate human skin.
The process of digestion is curious. The main part of their diet is made up of plant foods, consisting of excessively persistent substances that are difficult to digest. Namely fiber and lignin. For their assimilation, single-celled living organisms come to the aid of the larvae, which massively appear in the intestines of the larvae. These cellular organisms secrete enzymes that help the digestion of fiber.
The main food of the larvae of centipede mosquitoes include:
- plant roots;
Internal unicellular organisms of larvae help food to be enriched with the necessary substances, as a result of which food is easily digested . Moreover, in the intestines of the larvae there are special blind outgrowths in which food is retained and where special conditions are created for the reproduction of microorganisms. A similar type of digestive system is also found in vertebrates, such as horses, and not only in insects.
Character and lifestyle features
Especially in the evenings, weevil mosquitoes often form small flocks. Different species fly in very different seasons. Marsh mosquito (Tipula Oleracea) flies from April to June, and in the second generation from August to October. Harmful weevil (T. paludosa) flies only in August and September, Art Tipula czizeki — only in October and November. It is likely that this different temporal appearance is a mechanism for separating the species and preventing interbreeding.
Interesting fact: These insects have a funny design feature – they have halteres next to the porches. These vestigial appendages probably help balance in flight, increasing maneuverability.
The larvae of the weevil mosquito can be harmful when spread in large numbers, especially on vegetables. Up to 400 larvae per square meter can live in the soil, where they can destroy plantations by damaging roots and damaging plant surfaces at night. Among the most harmful — bog weevil (T. paludosa), marsh weevil (T. oleracea), T. czizeki and various other species that mainly feed on young plants in the forest.
The larvae of some species also consume other live aquatic invertebrates and insects that could potentially consist of mosquito larvae, although this has not been officially documented. Many adults have such a short lifespan that they eat little to nothing, and despite the popular belief that adult weevils prey on mosquito populations, they are anatomically incapable of killing or consuming other insects.
Social structure and reproduction
An adult female, in most cases, already has mature eggs when she crawls out of the pupa, and mates almost immediately if a male is present. Males also seek out females by flying during this time. Copulation takes minutes to hours and can be done in flight. Adults have a lifespan of 10 to 15 days. The female immediately lays her eggs mainly in moist soil or in algae.
Few will stir the eggs on the surface of the reservoir or on dry soil, and some simply drop them in flight. As a rule, the female flies just above the ground in search of a suitable deposit. In some species (such as Tipula scripta and Tipula hortorum), the female digs a small cavity in the ground, after which she lays her eggs. In some species, females produce several hundred eggs.
Cylindrical, usually gray larvae, without legs or other stepped organs of locomotion, slip out of the eggs. Unlike fly larvae, mosquito larvae have a head capsule, but this (unlike the mosquito) is behind a not completely closed (hemisphere). A distinctive feature of the larvae are two posterior stigmas, which are surrounded by a dark field and six species-specific extensions.
Most species of weevil mosquito have black larvae. With the help of a special thread, they can fix the egg in an aquatic or humid environment. These velcro larvae of the centipede mosquito have been found in many types of land and water habitats. They are cylindrical in shape, but taper towards the anterior end, and the head capsule often retracts into the thorax. The abdomen itself is smooth, covered with hairs, welt-like protrusions or spots.
Fun fact: The larvae can feed on microflora, algae, living or decaying plant deposits, including wood. Some of the weevils are carnivores. The mandibles of the larvae are very strong and difficult to crush. Larvae are an important link in the processing of foliage and needles.
Adult larvae of Tipula maxima, about five centimeters long, live in forest streams and feed on autumn foliage. Help in the development of poorly digestible cellulose food occurs with the help of fermentation chambers. After four larval stages, they pupate, resulting in the formation of small horns on the doll in the chest area as a respiratory organ. The body is studded with spikes, and the doll itself is flexible. Pupation usually takes place in the ground or in rotten wood. In some species, pupae hibernate, in others two generations per year can be observed.
Natural enemies of the weevil mosquito
Long-legged with difficulty move on overly elongated limbs. These legs often save their lives. When an attack occurs from a predator and it clings to a protruding limb, it easily breaks off, and after that the individual remains alive and can fly away.
The larvae and adults become valuable prey for many animals, namely:
In addition to their important role as processors of rotting matter, weevils are an excellent food source for many nesting birds at this time of year. So, on those warm spring evenings when you can see those big mosquitoes swarming around the porch lamp, you need to put aside all fears and rest easy.
There are other weevil mosquitoes that fall outside the Tipulidae and Pediciidae families, but are not as closely related to them. These include ptychopterids, winter mosquitoes, and thanderid mosquitoes (Ptychopteridae, Trichoceridae, and Tanyderidae, respectively). The best-known of these is the phantom mosquito Bittacomorpha clavipes, a large insect that flies with inflated paws (“feet”), helping to lift its long black and white legs into the air.
Species population and status
Nothing threatens this family, because its representatives are widespread and the number of many species is increasing. Many species have become invasive in some areas and are detrimental to agriculture and forestry. Species of the family are listed in the Red Book as groups at the lowest risk. Although the number and number of populations is sometimes difficult to estimate.
Fun Fact: Although weed mosquitoes have been recorded all over the world, certain species usually have a limited distribution range. They are most diverse in the tropics, and are also common at high altitudes and in northern latitudes.
The common European mosquito weevil T. paludosa and the marsh weevil T. oleracea are agricultural pests . Their larvae are of economic importance. They settle in the upper layers of the soil, and eat the roots, root hairs, crown, and sometimes the leaves of agricultural crops, delaying their growth or killing plants. They are inconspicuous pests of vegetables.
From the late 1900s. The T. mosquito weevil has become invasive in many countries, including the United States. Their larvae have been observed on many crops: vegetables, fruits, cereals, ornamental plants and lawn grasses. In 1935, London's football stadium was one of the places affected by these pests. Several thousand individuals were collected by staff and burned because they caused bald spots to appear on the turf of the field.