Availability of Mosquitoes Found in Amber and Copal

by Terrence M. Allen, May 3, 2010
Revised November 30, 2010 for clarification and updates

Traders and dealers that sell amber and copal at Rock and Fossil Shows, claiming that the fossilized resin inlcudes mosquitoes, are not entomologists. Fossil dealers usually are not intentionally deceiving the buyer, but they honestly don't know how to identify an actual mosquito. Everyone thinks they know a mosquito when they see one as most people have been bitten by these blood-suckers at one time or another during their lives. But these biting vampires flies are confusing and difficult to identify even by a professionally trained or educated biologist. Most pieces of amber and copal with inclusions sold as mosquitoes usually contain an insect of the fly order Dipters (which does include mosquitoes of the family Cullicidas), but the inclusions are not actually mosquitoes. The majority of insects misidentified and sold as mosquitoes are usually:
  • Aquatic Midges (Family: Chironomidae)
  • Fungus Gnats (Family: Mycetophilidae)
  • Wood Gnats (Family: Anisopodidae)
  • Gall Midges (Family: Cecidomyidae)
  • Biting Midges (Family: Ceratopogonidae)
  • Crane Flies (Family: Tipulidae)
The "buyer" must beware of the purchase, or have the particular piece authenticated by a certified entomoligist, especially if paying a high price for a piece of amber or copal containing a prehistoric mosquito. A fossil buyer must consider himself "lucky" if an inexpensive piece of amber or copal indeed included a species of mosquito!

Terrance M Allen
Retired Entomologist, California State Dept. Food & Agriculture
Certified Technician in Mosquito Control, Los Angeles County, State of California, Department of Health
Arachnologist, Practicing Paleontologist, and Factotum Naturalist
May 3, 2010. Revised November 30, 2010.

Courtesy of Aragon Enterprises, Inc. Partial or Total Reproduction Without Authorization Prohibited.


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