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The Largest Mosquito In The World (Toxorhynchites speciosus) Is Harmless

Updated on February 19, 2012

Common Names: Predatory mosquito, mosquito eaters, mosquito hawks
Scientific: Toxorhynchites speciosus
Family:
CULICIDAE

The largest mosquito in the world is Toxorhynchites speciosus, a species of predatory mosquito. Members of the genus Toxorhynchites are commonly called predatory mosquitoes, mosquito eaters or mosquito hawks due to the fact that all Toxorhynchites species in their larval stage feed on aquatic invertebrates, including the larvae of other mosquitoes.

Both the male and female adults of Toxorhynchites speciosus primarily obtain the energy they need from feeding on nectar. Because they feed primarily on nectar, they also help to pollinate the plants they feed on in the process. The females do not require a blood-meal to produce eggs unlike most other mosquitoes. Neither the males or females ever feed on the blood of humans or any other animal. Adult Toxorhynchites speciosus will occasionally feed on honeydew, sap from damaged plants, juices from rotting fruits and any other easily accessible source of sugars.

Toxorhynchites speciosus is native to Australia and has a range that covers coastal areas north of Sydney in the states of New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory. They can be found in coastal forests where they breed in rain-filled crevices in trees, puddles and other sources of still-water where the prey of their larvae can be found. The adults are sometimes seen in residential gardens during the warmer months of the year laying their eggs in mosquito larvae ridden pot reservoirs, water features and old car tires. Occasionally they will also enter peoples houses by accident, startling the vast majority of people who are unfamiliar with them who mistakenly think that they are giant blood suckers.

The genus name Toxorhynchites is dervived from a combination of the Greek words 'toxo' meaning arrow and 'rhynch' meaning snout, and is in references to the distinctive bent, arrow-shaped proboscis that is characteristic of this genus.

A female Toxorhynchites speciosus.  Females can be differentiated from the males as they have plain antennae.  Males of all mosquito species have plumed antennae.
A female Toxorhynchites speciosus. Females can be differentiated from the males as they have plain antennae. Males of all mosquito species have plumed antennae. | Source

Toxorhynchites speciosus adults are exceptionally large, with females reaching a length of up to 3.8 cm (1.5 inches). They have a greenish metallic thorax, yellow and black abdomen and white banding on their legs. The adults are active during the day.

The juvenile aquatic larvae are also large, about 10 times the size of regular mosquito larvae. The larvae have a dark brown upper surface with a lighter underside. Most mosquito larvae are filter feeders, however the larvae of Toxorhynchites species have grasping mandibles for seizing and chewing their prey.

Due to their efficiency in feeding upon the larvae of smaller, disease-carrying mosquitoes, Toxorhynchites species are currently being considered for release outside of their natural range to help combat mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever. These mosquitoes are true allies and it's worth learning how to recognize them before indiscriminately reaching for the bug-spray.


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