Love them or hate them, mosquitoes are a part of enjoying the great outdoors.
While some people may seem immune to the saliva of the blood thirsty insects- yes, that is what causes those red bumps and itchiness- others become frantic, scratching victims.
However, as the old saying goes. . .the best way to defeat the enemy is by knowing everything you can about them.
So here are some useful tidbits that can help you better understand the fascinating world of these loathed creatures. **Believe me, once you read this, you will think they are pretty fascinating, too**
Did You Know?
- Only female mosquitoes bite. Both male and female feed mainly on fruit and plant nectar. However, the female also needs the protein from blood to help her eggs develop.
- Mosquitoes don’t have teeth. The females “bite” with a long, pointed mouthpart called a proboscis. They use the serrated proboscis to pierce the skin and locate a capillary, then draw blood through one of two tubes.
- A mosquito can drink up to 3 times its weight in blood. Don’t worry, though. It would take about 1.2 million bites to drain all the blood from your body.
- There are more than 3,500 species of mosquitoes. About 175 of them are found in the United States.
- Diseases are mosquito specific. For instance, the mosquito species that is the vector (transporter) for the Malaria virus is not the same one that is responsible for the Zika virus.
- Mosquitoes can transmit a lot of diseases, but not HIV. The virus that causes AIDS does not replicate in mosquitoes and is actually digested in their stomachs, so it’s broken down without being passed on.
- Mosquitoes are considered the deadliest “animal” in the world. The Anopheles mosquito, in particular, is dangerous because it transmits malaria, which kills more than one million people every year, primarily in Africa. Alexander the Great is believed to have died of malaria in 323 B.C.
- Mosquito is Spanish for “little fly.” The word reportedly originated in the early 16th century. In Africa, New Zealand and Australia, mosquitoes are often called “Mozzies”
- Mosquito eggs can hatch in as little as an inch of standing water. Females will lay up to 300 eggs (three times) before they die.
- Mosquitoes spend their first 10 days in water. Water is necessary for the eggs to hatch into larvae, called wigglers. Wigglers feed on organic matter in stagnant water and breathe oxygen from the surface. They develop into pupae, which do not feed and are partially encased in cocoons. Over several days, the pupae change into adult mosquitoes.
- The mosquito’s average lifespan is less than two months. Males have the shortest lives, usually 10 days or less, and females can live about six to eight weeks, under ideal conditions.
- Male mosquitoes locate females by the sound of their wings. Females can beat their wings up to 500 times per second, and the males pick out the higher frequency of those beats when seeking a mate. Pretty impressive!
- Mosquitoes can’t fly very far or very fast. They often stay within several hundred feet of where they were hatched, so ridding your house of standing water can significantly reduce a mosquito population.
- Mosquitoes are attracted to your breath. They have receptors on their antennae that detect the carbon dioxide released when we exhale. How long can you hold your breath??
- Sweat helps mosquitoes choose their victims. Our skin produces more than 340 chemical odors, and some of them smell like dinner to mosquitoes. They are fond of octenol, a chemical released in sweat, as well as cholesterol, folic acid, certain bacteria, skin lotions, and perfume.
- Mosquitoes use heat sensors to find the best food source. Around their mouthparts, mosquitoes have heat sensors detect where the best capillaries are on your body.
- The bumps from mosquito bites are caused by saliva. While one tube in the proboscis draws blood, a second pumps in saliva containing a mild painkiller and an anti-coagulant. Like most allergic reactions, your body is reacting to the proteins found in the saliva that is now under your skin. Gross!
- DEET does not mask your scent or jam mosquito receptors. Deet works so well because mosquitoes simply don’t like the smell of it.
Bacteria can be used to kill mosquito larvae. Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) is a commercially-produced bacteria, sold in pellet and powder form, that can be laced into water where larvae live. It produces proteins that turn into toxins after the larvae eat it.
- Dark clothing attracts mosquitoes. Remember, they are drawn to heat and darker clothes retain more heat than light-colored clothing.
- The two main mosquito predators are fish and dragonflies. Gambusia, or mosquitofish, feed on mosquito larvae and are used all over the world to help control mosquito populations. Dragonfly larvae, called nymphs, eat mosquito larvae, and adult dragonflies prey on adult mosquitoes. Some towns in Maine release dragonflies every summer as a natural form of mosquito control.
I hope you learned a thing or two about the seemingly small world of the mosquito. I couldn’t believe they were attracted to my breath. . .
What was your favorite fact? Comment below.
Until next time my friends, this is Ms. Mallory inviting you to . . .
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Resources: The American Mosquito Control Association