Anopheles is a genus of mosquito that is best known for transmitting the dangerous disease known as malaria. This genus, which might as well be called the malaria mosquito, contains over 420 known species of mosquitoes. Anopheles mosquito from Greek means useless, which the best describes these blood-seeking mosquitoes that kill over 1 million people each year. Anopheles genus was first described in 1818 by a German entomologist Johann Wilhelm Meigen. Human malaria is transmitted by female Anopheles mosquitoes but only about 30-40 Anopheles species transmit malaria disease.
Anopheles mosquitoes consist of three main parts – head, thorax, and abdomen. For detecting different odors from hosts such as those from a human skin and to find breeding sites these mosquitoes have specific antennae on their body. For feeding, these mosquitoes have a proboscis and 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 three pairs of legs.
Anopheles mosquitoes can be easily differed from other mosquito genera by their resting position. The stomach of a mosquito is pointed upwards when they are in a resting position and not in parallel to the surface they are resting on. Most Anopheles mosquito species are active during dusk and dawn or during the night. And hide in dark areas during the day hours. The female Anopheles mosquito, which is the transmitter of malaria disease usually lives two weeks but can sometimes live up to a month depending on the weather conditions, climate, blood meals available and other factors, however, male mosquitoes live only about a week. The main purpose of female mosquitoes is to breed and lay eggs and for male mosquitoes only to breed. Anopheles male and female mosquitoes feed on nectar from plants and take energy from sugars of nectars. Female mosquitoes also need blood to develop their eggs. Adult female Anopheles mosquito can lay up to 200 eggs at one time.
Anopheles mosquito species can be found practically anywhere in the world, except in Antartica. Those Anopheles species that transmit malaria are mostly found in warm climate zones, but can also be found in moderate zones. However in these areas transmission of malaria has been eradicated over 50 years ago. But there is no guarantee that malaria could not start again in one of these areas, as it takes just a single infected human for malaria vector to pick up the parasite that causes malaria. Some mosquito species that live in colder climate zones can hibernate during the winter in warm places to continue the species in the next spring. Anopheles mosquitoes need water to breed, similar as other mosquito genera, so they can be found near larger and smaller means of standing water, which includes swamps, ponds, ditches, artificial areas with standing water such as old barrels, buckets and tires, pools and similar areas.
There are four development stages of Anopheles mosquito life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and imago or adult mosquito. The breeding areas of these mosquitoes are any means of fresh or salt water. An adult female mosquito in a single time can lay up to 200 eggs. To develop eggs a female mosquito needs to have a blood meal and after few days it is ready to lay eggs. When eggs have been laid into the water the female mosquito can go and seek for another blood meal to develop next batch of eggs. The duration for eggs to hatch can differ based on the species of mosquito and from the temperature and climate around. Anopheles mosquito can develop from egg to adult mosquito usually in about 5-14 days.
Here is a map from wikipedia.org that illustrates population of Anopheles mosquito species across different countries.
Anopheles mosquito has over 420 known species from which just over 100 can transmit human malaria. From those 100 species, only 30-40 are common transmitters of malaria disease. Malaria vector obtains a parasite called Plasmodium from the blood cells of an infected human. After that, the parasite reproduces inside the mosquito and when a mosquito bites another human, the parasite is pumped in the human blood together with saliva trough hypopharynx organ, which mosquito inserts into a blood vessel. Beside transmitting malaria disease, some species of Anopheles mosquito can transmit the heartworm parasite, which can be very dangerous to dogs, cats, and other animals.