Mosquito FAQs

Find answers to frequently asked questions about the Mosquito Habitat Mapper tool:


Is making mosquito observations dangerous, since they can carry diseases?

We focus GLOBE Observers on larvae, an immature developmental stage of the mosquito, that does not transmit disease to humans. While you are out making observations, use appropriate protection such as long-sleeved shirts and long pants to prevent mosquito bites. Apply approved insect repellents to skin and clothing as directed on the product label. DEET-containing products are one example. Minimize exposure time by collecting samples and returning indoors to analyze the samples. For more information, here is mosquito bite prevention information in the U.S. and for travelers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as tips for mosquito control around the home from the Army Public Health Center, Entomological Sciences Program.


What equipment do I need to make Mosquito Habitat Mapper observations?

To identify and report potential breeding sites (and eliminate them if you are able), no equipment beyond your smartphone is needed. If you wish to sample and count the larvae, you will need a cup, bulb syringe or other container to obtain a sample. To actually identify the genus of a collected larva, you will need a white surface such as a plastic or paper plate to place the larva on (suspended in a drop of water), as well as magnification to see the required features as you work through the identification key. We recommend using a camera macro lens attachment with a minimum of 60x magnification (100x is even better). A number of relatively inexpensive models can be found online.


Where should I collect data?

You can expect to find mosquitoes anywhere that provides a pool of water that allows the larvae to grow and develop. Different mosquitoes prefer different habitats. The yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti) and the Asian tiger (Aedes albopictus) mosquitoes are well adapted to human-built environments. Their ancestors preferred tree holes as breeding sites, but now they seek out water sources near the humans and animals that provide blood for the female to nourish her eggs. These mosquitoes now preferentially seek out manufactured containers as breeding sites, from discarded water bottles and tires to water tanks, sewers, and flowerpots.

You will find a range of habitat examples in Mosquito Habitat Mapper tool. Larvae can be found in water sources as small as a bottle cap and as large as a cistern. Eliminating these habitats – by dumping out the water or covering the container with a lid or net—will mean fewer mosquitoes near your home or school, making your family and community safer from disease.


My mosquito larvae photos are blurry. What should I do?

Many magnifying lenses for mobile devices work best when they are attached as close as possible to the camera lens. Try temporarily removing your device case to get a closer attachment. Some lens attachments also allow you to adjust their focus, so check that you have made any adjustments there as well.


I have a separate microscope, not just the clip-on magnifier. Can I attach those photos to my observation?

If you have the photos on your phone (however they were originally captured), they can be included with a Mosquito Habitat Mapper observation.  When you add a photo in the app, you can select "Take Photo" or "Choose Existing," so you just need to have the photos available on the camera roll on the phone and select the second option.


What if the larva I see is not one of the three genera identified in the app?

The three genera we are looking for in the app are AedesCulex, and Anopheles. However, there are 41 genera and more than 3,500 species of mosquitos, so It is highly likely that mosquitoes you find will not be from the three target genera. If your larva is not one of these three, you can select “other.” However, is still important to mitigate the habitat, regardless of the type of larvae discovered.


What if I don’t see the features I need to determine the kind of mosquito I am looking at?

Not all specimens can be identified! A specimen might be damaged during retrieval (such as in a net), or may not have clear features that you can use in identification. For example, in earlier stages of larval development, the features may have not fully matured. You will have the best results if you choose your largest (oldest) larval specimens to identify. Other times, the larva is lying in such a way that the features are not visible. Try use a toothpick to gently move the larva so that the features are in full view. The app shows image suggesting how to best position the mosquito larva for identification. You may look at two or three mosquito larvae in your sample before you can make a final determination. Even if you can't identify the larvae, documenting the site is still a valuable observation.


Interested in a FAQ sheet that also includes scientific questions?

Click here for the PDF.