Meet the Native Mosquito Assassin

Mosquito Assassins (Toxorhynchites rutilus) were released in spring 2019 into the Cockrell Butterfly Center (CBC) as a biological control to help rid the CBC of its stowaway pest mosquitoes.

Native to the southeastern United States, the Mosquito Assassin lays her eggs into rainwater-filled vessels. Her larval offspring will prey upon aquatic animals, including mosquito larvae. Flying adults feed on sugar and can be observed sipping nectar from flowers and butterfly feeders.

Visitors may also see her hovering over bromeliads in the CBC as she deposits individual white eggs into water at the base of leaves by performing a distinctly looping flight pattern.

The Mark Release Recapture (MRR) phase of the semi-field study began in early June 2019, when 200 glow-in-the-dark Mosquito Assassins were released into the CBC to evaluate their longevity. Assassins were marked with fluorescent pigment before their release. Dead assassins were gathered and identified daily by interns at the CBC, and the data collected will be used to ascertain the location, sex, and quantity of dead assassins. Collection was conducted by way of a black light assisted search for 4 weeks.

Mosquito Assassin Taxonomy:

Phylum Arthropoda – Arthropods

Subphylum Hexapoda – Hexapods

Class Insecta – Insects

Order Diptera – Flies

No Taxon “Nematocera” (Non-Brachycera)

Infraorder Culicomorpha – Mosquitoes and Midges

Family Culicidae – Mosquitoes

Genus Toxorhynchites

Species rutilus – Mosquito Assasin

The species name rutilus in Latin means “red with hints of yellow”, owing to the Mosquito Assassin’s metallic coloration. Their wing-span typically ranges 12mm and their body length 7mm. Preferring to deposit their eggs in tree holes and containers, the larvae will feed upon other aquatic creatures including the larvae of mosquitos. Adults will feed on the nectar of flowers.

What’s in a name?

The species name rutilus in Latin means “red with hints of yellow”, owing to the Mosquito Assassin’s metallic coloration.

How big is it?

Their wing-span typically ranges 12mm and their body length 7mm.

Where does it live?

Preferring to deposit their eggs in tree holes and containers, the larvae will feed upon other aquatic creatures including the larvae of mosquitoes. Adults will feed on floral nectar, tree sap and fruit.