Have you ever stopped to think about how far a mosquito can fly? The winged pests always seem to be flitting about to and fro during mosquito season, so it’s a valid question. Knowing more about the distances mosquitoes can cover could be a useful tool in protecting yourself from their probing bites.
As you may already be aware, mosquitoes are extremely strong flyers given their small size–so strong that they can even get around during rainy weather. This strong flying ability also ties in to how large of a distance mosquitoes can travel and even at what altitudes they can fly. Let’s take a look at just how far mosquitoes can fly in different situations and.
How Far Can Mosquitoes Fly?
The distance a mosquito can fly largely depends on their specific breed. Some mosquitoes (like the Asian Tiger Mosquito) can only fly several hundred feet while others can travel up to 100 miles! Luckily, the average mosquito you encounter can only travel up to 1-3 miles from their original destination.
According to the American Mosquito Control Association, mosquitoes breeding habits have a lot to do with the amount of distance they are able to travel. If the breed typically reproduces in small environments, they are less likely to fly long distances and tend to live out their life very close to where they were born. However, migratory mosquito breeds can travel many miles looking for suitable breeding grounds and hosts. Additionally, migratory mosquitoes can be caught in updrafts that carry them even greater distances than they would have been able to travel on their own.
What does this mean for you? Well, just because you live far away from mosquito breeding grounds doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about mosquitoes. In fact, even if you live in the top story of an apartment building in the middle of a city miles away from an adequate mosquito breeding environment, mosquitoes can (and will) still find you.
How Far Up Can Mosquitoes Fly?
You may have heard the myth that mosquitoes can only fly 20 feet above ground level, but this is not true. Mosquitoes fly as high as 300 feet during typical migrations. Additionally, mosquitoes can breed and fly at extremely high altitudes: you can find mosquitoes as high as 8,000 feet in the Himalayan mountains.
Although mosquitoes have been found at extremely high altitudes, most mosquito breeds tend to stick closer to the ground. Nectar plants and blood hosts (which make up the majority of a mosquito’s diet) tend to be found closer to the ground, so there’s not much need for an average mosquito to reach great heights during flight. Generally speaking, mosquitoes prefer flying below 25 feet from the ground. However, mosquitoes will fly at greater heights during migration in order to avoid common pitfalls they may face at ground level like trees or other obstacles. The Collier Mosquito District conducted a study in 2009 to determine the average flight altitude of migrating salt marsh mosquitoes. They found that the mosquitoes typically flew at or below 100 feet, but would fly as high as 300 feet during the night.
As we mentioned before, living in a top floor city apartment doesn’t mean mosquitoes can’t reach you. Because mosquitoes can travel long distances and fly at high altitudes, you need to practice proper mosquito protection even if it might seem silly. The last thing you want is to deal with is aggravating mosquitoes ruining your enjoyment of the great outdoors or flying into your home and terrorizing your family.
How Far Do Mosquitoes Travel From Where They Are Born?
The distance a mosquito flies from their birthplace relies on their specific breed. Most common mosquito breeds will only travel 1-3 miles from their birthplace. However, if a mosquito relies on migration to survive, they will travel as far as 100 miles from their birthplace in order to survive and reproduce.
Typically speaking, the environment a mosquito is born in should be ideal for their entire lifespan. Mosquito mothers try to lay their eggs in places where their young can be sustained without the need for long-distance travel. Certain breeds of mosquitoes spend the entirety of their life within 300 feet of their birthplace. However, there are many breeds that migrate as a natural part of their lifespan. Migrating mosquitoes do not feel the need to remain close to their birthplace and will often travel many miles in order to find the perfect place to lay their eggs and continue their lineage.
How Far Away Can Mosquitoes Smell?
This may come as no surprise to you, but mosquitoes have an incredibly strong sense of smell that allows them to identify and seek out their prey. Mosquitoes can smell CO2 emissions when they are as far as 10-50 meters away from the creature breathing out the CO2.
Researchers at Caltech decided to test the distance from which a mosquito could identify a CO2 plume with an experiment. They placed an object on the floor of a wind tunnel and measured the distance from which a mosquito could identify the CO2 and travel to the object. They hypothesized that mosquitoes could identify the CO2 plume from as far as 50 meters away.
Mosquitoes mainly rely on the smell of CO2 to track their prey as most blood hosts emit CO2 when they are breathing. Once a mosquito has picked up on the scent of CO2, they will follow the trail until they are close enough to identify their target’s body heat. Once they are this close, a mosquito is able to lock in on their target and attack.
Can Mosquitoes Fly Across The Ocean?
Yes, mosquitoes can (and do) fly across the ocean. There are migratory mosquito breeds that routinely travel across the Atlantic ocean to reach ideal locations for reproduction. Because mosquitoes can fly long distances and fly high in the sky, crossing the ocean is very possible for a mosquito.
We have already established that there are breeds of mosquitoes that fly many miles during their migration. Typically, a migratory mosquito breed will only travel roughly as far as 40 miles from their original destination without any outside assistance. This is more than enough distance to fly across parts of the ocean, especially narrow stretches between landmasses. However, wind is also a factor in how far a mosquito can fly. There is often very strong windflower over the ocean. When mosquitoes are assisted by these updrafts, they can travel up to 100 miles! Coupled with their ability to fly several hundred feet above the ocean’s churning waves, there is nothing stopping mosquitoes from crossing the sea as they please.
Where Mosquitoes Don’t Travel: Iceland
This may surprise you, but Iceland may be the only place in the world you will not find mosquitoes (although there are other pests to worry about.) How is this possible? It is believed that mosquitoes cannot survive in Iceland due to the sudden environment changes that occur so rapidly during Icelandic seasons.
If you have already read up on the life cycle of mosquitoes, you’ll know that they go through 4 stages during their lifespan: egg, larvae, pupa, and adult. During a mosquito’s early development, it is crucial that the water they live in maintain a suitable temperature and that the surface remains unfrozen so that growing mosquitoes are able to breathe. After they become adults, mosquitoes rely on even temperatures in order to fly and feed. If temperatures raise or drop dramatically, it can negatively affect and even kill mosquitoes.
According to the Icelandic Web of Science, Icelandic seasons have extremely variable weather conditions. There can be sudden, extreme rises in temperature even during the middle of winter. These temperature rises can lead to unforeseen thawing, which creates an environment a mosquito can survive in. However, the temperature can drop just as quickly. There is often not enough time between these drastic weather changes for a mosquito to complete the necessary life stages in order to survive. Under common Icelandic weather conditions, mosquito pupae are unable to mature during warm weather before the weather rapidly cools once more. Even if an adult mosquito is able to find thawed water to lay her eggs, it freezes over again before her offspring can mature.
Avoiding Mosquito Bites
Now that you know more about the distances mosquitoes are able to travel, I hope that you are better prepared to protect yourself and your loved ones from their bites this mosquito season. Even if you live in a high-rise building in the city and believe you are too far for mosquitoes to find, don’t be fooled: mosquitoes can and will fly whatever distance is necessary in order to find blood hosts. Unless you live in Iceland, you need to practice proper mosquito protection and work to repel these nasty insects. Ignoring mosquitoes is never the solution. When the weather begins to warm up again, do yourself and your loved ones a favor and stock up on mosquito repellent.
Looking for a place to get started when it comes to protecting yourself this mosquito season? I strongly suggest you head over to my recommended products page and check out the information there. All of the products there have been tested and proven effective at repelling mosquitoes. Don’t let yourself or your loved ones go unprotected: mosquitoes can carry an arsenal of diseases that can be easily prevented with proper mosquito protection. A little bit of information and the proper gear goes a long way in stopping mosquitoes in their tracks!