A mosquito hawk is the nickname of winged insects that eat mosquitoes on the wing, especially types of dragonflies, and damselflies. Dragonflies, damselflies and their larvae are prized for their ability to eat mosquitoes. Craneflies are also called mosquito hawks, but adult craneflies either eat nectar or don’t feed at all; their larvae eat mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are flying, blood-sucking insects of the Culicidae family that can be vectors of such diseases as malaria and West Nile fever. Even if the mosquito’s bite proves harmless, it is a major pest.
Dragonfly, Damselfly, Cranefly or Mosquito
Look closely at a dragonfly. Note that the wingspan of a dragonfly is about 70 mm, and they rest holding their wings out from their bodies, unlike most other insects. They have four wings, which are transparent but beautifully veined and sometimes enhanced with spots of color. The dragonfly also has a round head and huge eyes that may be fused together. Observe the dragonfly's very long, slender segmented abdomen. It has long legs that seem canted forward. Use the magnifying glass to see that the legs have bristles, which helps the dragonfly catch its prey on the wing. Notice that the dragonfly has toothed chewing mandibles. Notice also that the dragonfly is a fast and nimble flyer, and its wings can operate independently of one another. Note that the dragonfly flies during the daytime. The dragonfly can be very colorful, coming in shades of metallic green or blue or bright scarlet, or black.
Find a damselfly. Notice that the damselfly is a bit smaller than the dragonfly. The damselfly holds its wings together when it rests. It too has a very long segmented abdomen and can be very colorful, but most damselflies that are collected are blue. See that the damselfly also has toothed chewing mandibles and catches its prey, including mosquitoes, in much the same way that a dragonfly does. Notice that the damselfly also has bristles on its legs that help it snatch prey out of the air. The damselfly is also a strong flier, but you will see that it doesn't fly with the agility of a dragonfly.
Observe a mosquito. Notice that the mosquito is much smaller than either the damselfly or the dragonfly. Most mosquitoes will not grow more than 10-mm long, with most being from 3 to 7 mm. The mosquito has two wings, and they're small. With the magnifying glass observe that the mosquito has a proboscis with piercing and sucking mouthparts with which to get her blood meal -- it might be difficult to tell but only the female mosquito bites, for she needs blood to lay eggs. Note that the male mosquito only feeds on plant nectar. Mosquitoes have well-developed antennae in order to sense the carbon dioxide and sweat given off by their prey. Most mosquitoes feed at dusk or dawn, though some species, like Aedes, will feed during the day as well. Note that compared to dragonflies, the mosquito is a poor flier, especially when engorged with blood.
Look at a cranefly. Note that a cranefly looks very much like a mosquito, with its long segmented legs. Most are much bigger than mosquitoes, up to 2-inches long. Unlike damselflies and dragonflies, they are poor fliers. Notice that, despite their name, they do not eat mosquitoes, or much else.
Do not allow the mosquito to bite you.