What Bug Is That? The guide to Australian insect families.

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The family Culicidae (as restricted to exclude families Dixidae, Chaoboridae and Corethrellidae) comprises the true mosquitoes. The Culicidae are species-rich and cosmopolitan.

The adult females of most species are obliged to take a blood meal to mature their eggs. Medical significance of Australian mosquitoes derives from this human-blood-feeding and the ability of several species thereby to transmit disease (act as vectors). Mosquitoes can carry serious diseases that can be passed onto humans: although malaria is one such disease it is not present in Australia. However, other diseases such as Ross River virus and Murray Valley encephalitis are present in Australia and can be passed on to humans via mosquitoes. Contrary to popular belief, this ability to transmit disease is not confined to tropical mosquitoes. Ross River virus (the cause of Epidemic Polyarthritis or 'Ross River disease') has occurred as far south as northern Tasmania. The mosquito-transmitted disease primarily of dogs, canine heartworm or Dirofilaria immitis , is endemic throughout the continent. Other 'tropical' diseases of humans such as dengue can occur in the subtropics, and, in the past, outbreaks of malaria extended outside the humid tropics. The risk of native temperate mosquitoes transmitting malaria onwards from a returning infectious traveller are not negligible. Mosquitoes figure amongst important transmitters of the disease myxomatosis amongst rabbits.

Larval mosquitoes are much more common in lentic (standing) waters than lotic; in running waters they are restricted to sheltered margins, and here Anopheles may be common.


Culicidae adults diagnostically have scales on the wing veins, head, and legs and usually on other parts of body. A long proboscis extends far beyond the clypeus. Larval Culicidae are recognised easily by their lack of prolegs, the fused and distended three thoracic segments and the presence of distinctive mouth (labral) brushes on the head.

The three major groupings can be recognised in the larval stage: the subfamily Anophelinae lacks a respiratory siphon, having the respiratory spiracles dorsally situated on a chitinised plate; and the Culicinae and Toxorhynchitinae with the spiracles on a respiratory siphon. The latter are predators, occurring only in phytotelmata.


Culicidae are cosmopolitan and distributed globally, with the exception of Antarctica. The Australian culicid fauna seems to be predominantly derived from northern elements, with no generic endemism, and with many links to New Guinea.

  • Culex sp. larvae

  • Culex gelidus

  • Culicidae