Coquillettidia perturbans

Geographic Range

Coquillettidia perturbans, also known as the cattail mosquito, is found throughout North America. As of 1955 in Canada, they were found in British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Saskatchewan. In the United States as of 1995 C. perturbans was found in all 50 states except Nevada, Arizona, West Virginia, New Mexico, Alaska, and Hawaii, as well as Mexico. (Carpenter and LaCasse, 1955; Serandour, et al., 2011)


Coquillettidia perturbans eggs, larvae, and pupae are found in freshwater marshes and lake edges with heavy emergent aquatic vegetation since this one-of-a-kind mosquito needs the aquatic vegetation to breathe. These sites are usually low in pH and low in dissolved oxygen, and contain vegetation including cattails, sedges, and floating mats (in temperate zones). These mosquitoes avoid open water, and areas containing small floating plants like duckweed, water fern, and mosquito fern. If the population is in a floating mat site, the larvae and pupae will be located in holes in the mat, or within one meter of the mat. In a cattail or sedge site, these mosquitos will be found further into a swamp to avoid loss of habitat due to water evaporation. They stay attached underwater to a host plant by inserting their respiratory trumpet into a plant’s airenchyma cells during their larval and pupal stage. Early instars tend to be found closer together than later instars. In general, larvae will be found between 35 cm to 75 cm underwater; 60 to 70 cm is the optimum depth. They do not surface because they use the plants to breathe underwater. (Carpenter and LaCasse, 1955; Morris, et al., 1990; Spielman and D'Antonio, 2001)

After emergence, adult cattail mosquitos can be found in forested areas, marshes, or fields, but they prefer a forested habitat. Host-seeking females are usually located about one meter above ground, and do not fly into the forest canopy to seek hosts. They are most active between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. The mosquito will stay near the ground to find a host. Coquillettidia perturbans will occasionally go after humans during the day in shaded areas. Males are usually found in shaded areas. (Bosak, 2002; Bosak, et al., 2001; Carpenter and LaCasse, 1955)

Physical Description

Coquillettidia perturbans larvae have a head that is wider than it is long. The antennae are two times as long as the head with two short bristles in the middle of the antennal shaft. The hairs on the head are in multiples of five or six. On the abdomen there are rows of 8 irregularly aligned comb scales. The siphon, which is a tube through which larvae and pupa breath, is short with no pectin in the air tube. The tip of the siphon curves and narrows; the dorsal side has tooth-like projections to pierce aquatic plant tissue. The anal segment has a complete saddle. (Andreadis, et al., 2005; Siverly, 1972)

The pupae have a cephalothorax with twelve setae present; about nine of the twelve are double. The abdomen has shorter dendritic float hairs that are made of simple setae. The pupae are unique in that they have a similar siphon as the larvae to breath underwater. The opening of the siphon is short, narrow, and designed to puncture aquatic plant tissue. The end of the siphon has a hairy process that detaches before adult emergence. (Darsie, Jr., 1951)

Adult female C. perturbans are reasonably large with an overall speckled appearance. Their proboscis is dark with a wide pale-scaled band towards the base. The tip of the proboscis is pale. The palps are about one fifth as long as the proboscis, and are speckled with dark and white scales. The scutum is covered in brown scales, and lacks prespiracular and postspiracular setae. The wings also have a speckled appearance due to the mixture of dark and white wing scales. The wing scales are broad with a rounded apex. The apex of the abdoment is blunt and slightly rounded. In each of the legs, the first tarsal segment has a white median band. The other tarsal segments have broad pale bands. (Andreadis, et al., 2005; Carpenter and LaCasse, 1955; Cutwa-Francis and O'Meara, 2008; Siverly, 1972)

  • Average mass
    .000775 g
    0.00 oz


Like all mosquitoes, Coquillettidia perturbans go through four major life stages: egg, larvae, pupae, and adult. The eggs are laid by a female on the surface of water in dense emergent aquatic vegetation. The eggs are connected by a glue that the female secretes on the eggs. This glue turns the eggs into an egg raft. As an egg hatches, the mosquito larvae will swim and attach itself to vegetation to breathe. Once there, it will go through larval and pupal life stages underwater. Mosquitoes go through four larval stages called instars with first instar being the start and fourth instar being the last larval stage. Larvae will stay underwater after they hatch, stay dormant there through winter, and into the next summer. Since females lay their eggs throughout summer, the overwintering larval stage will vary among populations. After the larval stages, the larvae will molt into the pupal stage. The pupae stay attached underwater until it is just about to molt. Emergence begins in early summer, peaks around the 4th of July, and continues through September. It is thought that emergence time correlates with what larval stage the mosquito overwinters at. It rises to the surface and molts into an adult mosquito. Male mosquitoes tend to emerge about a day earlier than females. (Bosak, 2002; Carpenter and LaCasse, 1955; Spielman and D'Antonio, 2001)


In order to breed, a male and a female C. perturbans must find each other. Little is known on how they find one another from long distances, but in short distances they listen to each other. In general, a mosquito can distinguish their species and know if they are near a member of the opposite sex by listening to the wing beat frequency of a nearby mosquito. Copulation occurs in the air with both the male and the female attached while flying. The adult males have a tendency to swarm at night to attract mates. The males tend to fly erratically in a figure eight pattern. A short term study observed swarms of male C. perturbans (Thomson, 1967). Females were found nearby on vegetation for one of the swarms, and mating was observed in another of the swarms with the copulating mosquitoes on the outside of the swarm. (Bosak, 2002; Nielson, 1964; Takken, et al., 2005; Thompson, 1967)

Once a female has mated, she will lay her eggs on the water. The eggs float on the water since they are stuck together in an egg raft. A larva will emerge from the egg, swim down, and attach itself underwater to emergent vegetation. It will slowly go through the larval stages until winter. At that point it will stop developing and overwinter. In spring, the mosquito will continue progressing through its larval life stages until it molts into a pupa then molts into an adult. As an adult, a female C. perturbans will immediately start looking for a mate. Breeding continues throughout the summer since emergence varies from population to population. (Bosak, 2002; Crans, 2004)

  • Breeding interval
    The cattail mosquito breeds one time during the summer months.
  • Breeding season
    The breeding season is throughout summer.
  • Average eggs per season

There is no parental involvement once the eggs are laid on the water.

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement


The entire lifecycle takes a year. This is unique to C. perturbans since most mosquitos do not overwinter as larvae. Many mosquitoes overwinter as eggs which decreases their lifespan. The majority a C. perturbans life is spent as larvae. (Crans, 2004)


Larval and pupal C. perturbans attach themselves underwater to emergent vegetation to breathe. A larval mosquito only eats, breathes, and quickly swims away if a threat is sensed. Adult cattail mosquitoes will fly to forested or shady areas. Once there, females will seek a host right away. They do this through detecting carbon dioxide that their host gives off. Coquillettidia perturbans prefers birds, but will also feed on humans, horses, and other mammals. These mosquitoes can travel several miles to find a host, seek a mate, or to find a place to lay their eggs. The male cattail mosquito will stay in forested areas and eat nectar. During the day, both male and female C. perturbans rest in sheltered areas like tall grass or low lying vegetation in shaded areas. In general, mosquitoes are influenced by environmental factors. If the temperature is below 68 degrees, flying decreases. If the temperature is below 50 degrees, mosquitoes usually stop flying. (Bosak, 2002; Bosak, et al., 2001; Lake County Florida Government, 2007; Morris, et al., 1990; Romanowski and Candeletti, 1984)

Home Range

Cattail mosquito larvae and pupae do not stray far from where they first attach, but can swim away if they feel threatened. Coquillettidia perturbans adults can travel several miles from where they emerge to find a host or a mate. (Lake County Florida Government, 2007)

Communication and Perception

Coquillettidia perturbans communicates through sound. Male and females only communicate for reproduction. Swarms of mosquitoes will become excited when they hear buzzing that is at 240 to 300 vibrations per second. Mosquitoes hear by feeling the vibrations on their antennae. Female mosquitoes can also sense carbon dioxide, see, and sense thermal cues in order to find a host. (Nielson, 1964; Stoller-Conrad, California Institute of Technology/2015)

Food Habits

Larval Coquillettidia perturbans feeds while attached to emergent vegetation. They are generalist eaters. They eat bacteria, detritus, euglenoid protozoans, and algae. Adult male and female Cq. perturbans feed on nectar, and only females feed on blood. The females must find a host to injest blood in order to produce their eggs. Coquillettidia perturbans females mostly feed on birds, humans, and horses. (Bosak, et al., 2001; Merritt, et al., 1990)

  • Animal Foods
  • blood
  • Plant Foods
  • nectar


Adult C. perturbans can be parasitized by water mites, and can be eaten by other organisms. In aquatic habitats, they are eaten by copepods such as Acanthocyclops vernalis and Macrocyclops albidus. (Kenny and Rubber, 1993)

Ecosystem Roles

The cattail mosquito is a bridge vector of eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) from birds to humans and horses. They are also hosts as adults to water mites. (Lanciani and McLaughlin, 1989; Spielman and D'Antonio, 2001)

Species Used as Host
Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • water mites

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Cattail mosquitos have been used to study eastern equine encephalitis virus. (Carpenter and LaCasse, 1955)

  • Positive Impacts
  • research and education

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

The cattail mosquito is a nuisance for humans, and is a bridge vector for eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), also known as “sleeping sickness”. The females are a particularly aggressive mosquito, so they can be a major annoyance for people spending time outside. Since this mosquito is a human biter and a carrier of EEE, it can transmit EEE to humans. This disease is rare, but is one of the most lethal of the mosquito borne encephalitides with about a 35 % mortality rate. About 35% of survivors will have moderate to severe mental disabilities. About 70 % to 90% of cases are people under 15 years old, or over age of 55. Coquillettidia perturbans is a bridge vector of EEE. The virus gets amplified by being cyclically transferred from mosquitoes to birds. The most common mosquito that takes part in the cycle is Culiseta melanura. In late summer and early fall when the virus is amplified, a cattail mosquito may feed on an infected bird, pick up the virus, then feed on a human and transmit the virus. Horses, mules, and donkeys can also be affected by this disease if they are bitten by a mosquito carrying the disease. (Bosak, 2002; Bosak, et al., 2001; Carpenter and LaCasse, 1955; Deresiewicz, et al., 1997; Spielman and D'Antonio, 2001)

EEE can have negative economic consequences as well. After an EEE outbreak in New Jersey in 1959, inland hotels had a 45 % to 65 % spike in hotel cancellations, and hotels on the coast lost about two million dollars in revenue. This was due to a decrease in tourism due to the EEE scare. To control C. perturbans, the use of a pesticide called methoprene is used by government agencies and private sector mosquito abatement agencies. Methoprene is a chemical that specifically inhibits the growth of mosquito larvae so the mosquito will not emerge from the water. Government agencies use taxpayer dollars in certain districts in the United States to offset the cost of the material and labor associated with mosquito control. (Bosak, 2002)

Conservation Status

Coquillettidia perturbans is a nuisance and a danger to humans. The effort is on trying to control and decrease the population of the cattail mosquito rather than conserve its population.

Other Comments

The genus changed from Mansonia perturbans to Coquillettidia perturbans.


Katherine Beadle (author), University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, Christopher Yahnke (editor), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


a wetland area rich in accumulated plant material and with acidic soils surrounding a body of open water. Bogs have a flora dominated by sedges, heaths, and sphagnum.


an animal that mainly eats meat

causes disease in humans

an animal which directly causes disease in humans. For example, diseases caused by infection of filarial nematodes (elephantiasis and river blindness).

causes or carries domestic animal disease

either directly causes, or indirectly transmits, a disease to a domestic animal


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


an animal that mainly eats decomposed plants and/or animals


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


the state that some animals enter during winter in which normal physiological processes are significantly reduced, thus lowering the animal's energy requirements. The act or condition of passing winter in a torpid or resting state, typically involving the abandonment of homoiothermy in mammals.


marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.


A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


an animal that mainly eats nectar from flowers


active during the night


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


an animal that mainly eats blood

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


offspring are all produced in a single group (litter, clutch, etc.), after which the parent usually dies. Semelparous organisms often only live through a single season/year (or other periodic change in conditions) but may live for many seasons. In both cases reproduction occurs as a single investment of energy in offspring, with no future chance for investment in reproduction.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others


uses sight to communicate


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