Anopheles is a genus of mosquito that’s best known for transmitting malaria. This genus, which we might as well call the malaria mosquito, contains over 420 known species of mosquito. The female Anopheles mosquito can transmit malaria to humans, but only about 30-40 species do so.
The Anopheles genus was first described in 1818 by a German entomologist, Johann Wilhelm Meigen. Anopheles comes from the Greek for “useless.” That’s the best way to describe these blood-seeking mosquitoes, which kill nearly one million people each year.
The Anopheles genus has over 420 known species, from which just over 100 can carry malaria. From those 100 species, only 30-40 are common transmitters of malaria.
They obtain a parasite called plasmodium from the blood cells of an infected human. Then the parasite reproduces inside the mosquito. So, when the mosquito bites another human, the parasite enters the victim’s blood along with the mosquito’s saliva.
Besides transmitting malaria, some species of Anopheles mosquito can transmit heartworms, which can be very dangerous to dogs, cats, and other animals.
Anopheles mosquitoes have three main parts: the head, thorax, and abdomen. They have specific antennae to detect different odors from hosts and to find breeding sites.
For feeding, these mosquitoes have a proboscis. To detect carbon dioxide, which is one of the strongest mosquito attractants, these species have two maxillary palps.
Anopheles mosquitoes also have a pair of wings and six legs.
Anopheles mosquitoes can be easily differentiated from other mosquitoes thanks to their resting position. The stomach of this mosquito points upwards when they’re in a resting position, not parallel to whatever they’re resting on. Most Anopheles mosquito species are active during dusk and dawn or at night. They hide in dark areas during the daytime hours.
The female Anopheles mosquito, which can transmit malaria, usually has a lifespan of two weeks. They can sometimes live up to a month, depending on the weather conditions, climate, and other factors. Male mosquitoes, however, only live about a week.
Female mosquitoes breed and lay eggs. Male mosquitoes live only to breed. Anopheles male and female mosquitoes feed on nectar from plants and get energy from the sugar in nectar. Female mosquitoes also need blood to develop their eggs. Adult female Anopheles mosquitoes can lay up to 200 eggs at a time.
There are four development stages in the Anopheles mosquito lifecycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The breeding areas for these mosquitoes can be any type of water: fresh or salt. The time it takes for the eggs to hatch can differ based on the mosquito species, temperature, and climate. Anopheles mosquitoes can usually go from egg to adult mosquito in about 5-14 days.
An adult female mosquito can lay up to 200 eggs at a time. To develop her eggs, a female mosquito needs a meal of blood. Then, after a few days, she will be ready to lay eggs. When the eggs are laid in the water, the female mosquito can go and seek more blood to begin her next batch of eggs.
The Anopheles mosquito can be found practically everywhere in the world, except Antarctica. Those that carry malaria are mostly found in warm climates, but you can also find them in moderate zones. In these areas, however, scientists eradicated malaria over 50 years ago. There’s no guarantee that malaria won’t return in one of these areas, though. It only takes a single infected human to enable these mosquitoes to pick up the parasite that causes malaria and begin to spread it.
Some mosquito species from colder climates hibernate in warm places over the winter to continue the species the next spring.
Anopheles mosquitoes need water to breed, as do other mosquitoes. So, you can usually find them near bodies of standing water, large and small. This includes swamps, ponds, ditches, and artificial areas with standing water such as old barrels, buckets, tires, pools, and so on.
To give you an idea of the reach of these mosquitoes, here’s a map from Wikipedia.org that illustrates Anopheles mosquito populations around the world.