As summer fades into fall, people are preparing for the arrival of cooler weather and the end of mosquito season. However, despite what many of us believe, mosquitoes do not die off completely during the winter and have several ways to survive cold or harsh weather conditions. One way is to hibernate, similar to what you might do if you were a bear.
Most mosquitoes are crepuscular feeders, active from dusk to dawn and resting or sleeping during the day. They avoid direct sunlight because exposure to it can dehydrate them. Instead, they look for secluded places that are protected from the sun, such as forests, shaded wetlands or other damp areas.
A mosquito that decides to hibernate will find a place where it can stay warm and dark and will go into a deep sleep-like state. Mosquitoes that hibernate are known to assume a position called the “hibernation squat,” which is described as a body-weight bending posture. They huddle together, possibly to share warmth and help maintain body temperature. Some researchers have even found that they secrete a protein that is known to keep them from freezing.
Research has found that mosquitoes may be able to control their duration and levels of sleep-like states by their feeding status, hydration status and seasonality. These factors could impact mosquito behavior and shift vectorial capacity for disease transmission. It is also important to note that while mosquitoes and fruit flies have very different lineages (260 million years apart), they share many of the same mechanisms that are believed to underlie sleep-like states.