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Name: Jackie K
Status: educator
Age: 50s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2002028

Is a mosquito a parasite? I have done Internet research and found places that said mosquitoes carry parasites and other sites that say mosquitoes are on the "low" end of the parasite list. My college age sons say no they are not. So, I need an expert's answer.

My dictionary defines a parasite as a "plant or animal that lives on or in another in a way that harms or is of no advantage to the host." Mosquitos are not parasites because they are free living, not obligated to stay on or in a host.

J. Elliott

Mosquitoes are not parasites. Parasites live in or upon a host. They are vectors of disease which means that they harbor parasites within their bodies and pass them on from one host to another, i.e., they carry the protozoans that cause malaria and African Sleeping sickness, among others. The parasites live in their salivary glands and when they bite the organisms go through their stinger (proboscis) into the blood of the host.


The definition of a parasite is something that lives on or in another living organism and benefits at the expense of that organism ("at the expense of" implies that the parasite is harming the organism in the process). There are two general categories of parasites: 1 Ectoparasites and 2. Endoparasites. Ecto live on the outside and endo on the inside of an organism. The mosquito, if it sucks the blood of an organism would by this definition be considered an ectoparasite. In my college course in Parasitology, we studied a number of parasites, some were mosquitoes. Some mosquitoes do not suck blood or live off another organism at its expense and in these cases that mosquito would not be a parasite. Some mosquitoes are also "vectors" of other parasitic diseases as in malaria. I squarely fall on Dad's side.

Peter Faletra Ph.D.
Assistant Director
Science Education
Office of Science
Department of Energy

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