Mosquito lifespan and life cycle

How long a mosquito can live depends on how you define its lifespan:

  • Adult stage: If only the adult stage is considered, the longest lifespan of mosquitoes is approximately 2 months.
  • Hi: If you include hibernating mosquitoes, the lifespan is up to 6 months.
  • Life cycle: If you take into account the complete life cycle of mosquitoes - i.e. the egg, larval, pupal and adult stages - the lifespan is over 1 year.


Other facts about longevity

In addition to the above, the following applies to the lifespan of mosquitoes:

  • The average lifespan of adult mosquitoes is less than two months
  • Female mosquitoes can usually live for 6 - 8 weeks (under the right conditions)
  • Male mosquitoes usually live for about 10 days (their lives are generally shorter than female mosquitoes)

The lifespan of mosquitoes also depends on a number of external factors such as temperature, humidity, food availability, predators, etc.

The vast majority of mosquito species are dependent on water to lay their eggs - and the larvae and pupae usually can't complete their development without water.


Life cycle

Mosquitoes go through 4 separate stages in their life cycle:

  • Egg stage
  • Larval stage
  • Puppet stage
  • Adult stage

However, the larval stage can contain several sub-stages. What exactly happens in each stage is individual from species to species, and their duration also depends on the mosquito species.

Below you will find a generalized overview of the different stages without going into the variations of the individual species. The review provides a good overview of how a mosquito's life progresses:


Egg stage

Eggs are laid one at a time and some species lay them in larger clusters that can float on the surface of the water. When laid in clusters, these typically consist of up to 200 eggs.

However, not all species lay their eggs on the surface of the water; some lay them directly in the water (so that it sinks to the bottom), while others lay them near the water, on moist soil or on soil that will later be flooded.

Most eggs hatch within 24 - 48 hours, but in some mosquito species, eggs can withstand entire seasons (e.g. winter or summer) or even years before hatching.


Larval stage

Mosquito larvae live in water and come to the surface to breathe. The larvae molt 4 times and grow with each molt. Most mosquito larvae have tube-like respiratory organs that they use to breathe. These organs are usually the larvae's only connection to the air above the water's surface. The organs are located at the end of the larvae, so they hang upside down when breathing.

However, the larvae of some mosquito species breathe differently - such as malaria mosquito larvae. There are also some species (Coquillettidia and Mansonia), which attach themselves to plants to get air. Common to all species is that they feed on microorganisms and organic matter in the water. After the larval stage, the larvae pupate.


Puppet stage

In the pupal stage, larvae pupate in pupae (cocoons) that they make themselves. The pupal stage is a resting stage where the larvae do not feed. However, they are mobile and can respond to light and changes in their environment. If they need to move around, they do so by moving their tails. When they move in this stage, it's typically to head for the bottom or other more sheltered areas.

The pupal stage is also the time when caterpillars develop into adult mosquitoes. This is the same development that butterflies, for example, go through as they develop from caterpillars to adults in their pupae. The pupal stage typically lasts 7-10 days and ends when the adult mosquito emerges from its pupa.


Adult stage

After the pupa emerges, the adult mosquito usually sits on the surface of the water for a short while. This hardens the various body parts and allows their bodies to dry. Most mosquitoes need to spread their wings and dry properly before they can fly. Bloodsucking and mating doesn't start until a few days after they emerge as adults.


Duration of stages

How long each stage lasts depends on the mosquito species, as mentioned, but also on temperatures. Some species can complete their life cycle in as little as 4 days, while others can last up to 1 month.

As mentioned, there are some species that can spend entire seasons in an egg just waiting for conditions to become optimal for hatching. If you count these species - and the time spent in the egg as a lifespan - the lifespan of a mosquito can, in principle, be over 1 year.