Did you know that not all mosquitoes blood-feed?
Contrary to popular belief, not all mosquitoes are vampires. A minority of mosquito species are strict nectar feeders as adults and never see or seek a drop of blood. One of these groups of "hippie" mosquitoes is from the "curved beak" tribe also known as Toxorhynchites (Toxo for short). This "elephant mosquito" can be 3 times larger than your typical mosquito. Interestingly, Toxo larvae are carnivorous, lurking their prey in the water to feed on the larvae of other mosquito species. Unfortunately, their use as biocontrol agent was not successful due to their limited reproductive capacity. However, By contrasting blood and nectar feeders, we can learn something about the ecological contexts of mosquito attractants.
Hippie mosquito receptors help us explore the ecological role of mosquito attractants.
In 2014, researchers identified the odorant receptor repertoire of the Toxo nose. What they found was that many of the smell receptors found in vampire mosquitoes are found in Toxo, questioning the role of human host odorants, including indole, skatole, octenol and sulcatone. It appears that blood and nectar feeding mosquitoes use the same odorants in different contexts. This comparison highlights that the chemical ecology of blood-feeding mosquitoes is more complex than previously imagined.