Investigations of biological invasions focus on patterns and processes that are related to introduction, establishment, spread and impacts of introduced species. This review focuses on the ecological interactions operating during invasions by the most prominent group of insect vectors of disease, mosquitoes. First, we review characteristics of non-native mosquito species that have established viable populations, and those invasive species that have spread widely and had major impacts, testing whether biotic characteristics are associated with the transition from established non-native to invasive. Second, we review the roles of interspecific competition, apparent competition, predation, intraguild predation and climatic limitation as causes of impacts on residents or as barriers to invasion. We concentrate on the best-studied invasive mosquito, Aedes albopictus, evaluating the application of basic ecological theory to invasions by Aedes albopictus. We develop a model based on observations of Aedes albopictus for effects of resource competition and predation as barriers to invasion, evaluating which community and ecosystem characteristics favour invasion. Third, we evaluate the ways in which invasive mosquitoes have contributed to outbreaks of human and animal disease, considering specifically whether invasive mosquitoes create novel health threats, or modify disease transmission for existing pathogen–host systems.