Selfish but impressive little bloodsucker – the mosquito

Female mosquitoes bite before laying around 200 eggs.

Living in a country where there is almost no rain we were all excited about the rain we recently had. Kids were running around with umbrellas, happily jumping into puddles. But now, around two weeks later, they are there! The mosquitoes!

mosquito cartoonOh don’t we all hate them, the little bloodsucking monsters keeping us up all night with the squeaky hum of their buzzing wings. They annoy us and ruin our BBQs before leaving us with an even more annoying itching bite.

Mosquitoes are actually quite impressive, but they use their impressiveness only for themselves. Out of a human point of view, of course, they are not useful for anything. Even subject of discussion, scientists, who usually state that every species has its place in an ecosystem, suggest that complete eradication of mosquitoes would not have any serious ecological consequences, like it was shown in one of Nature Magazine’s famous publication and in a science today publication.

Kill them anyway!

 

If you get a mosquito bite, blame the female! Only the adult females bite because they do need the blood to develop their eggs, around 200 of them. Yes, 200 new annoying little bloodsuckers to be! That’s why it is worth killing a mosquito even after being bitten.

Carbon dioxide is the key

Female mosquitoes are attracted to CO2, Carbon dioxide. They react a little to other perspiration chemicals and movement, but CO2 is the key signal to mosquitoes for a potential blood meal. That’s how they find us – and our heads – at night.

live cycle mosquitoAnd after the lady mosquito has enjoyed her blood meal and has developed her 200 eggs, she lays them in some kind of stagnant water where it takes days to weeks to go from eggs into larvae, into pupa and finally into an adult mosquito.

The stagnant water can be a puddle, a pond, a water filled container, a street hole which filled up after rain, or even sewage water. There are different species of mosquitoes with different habits but they all require water to breed.

Preventing mosquitoes

That’s why not leaving any holes and openings for water to collect in is considered part of preventing mosquitos, next to using repellent and mosquito nets, insecticides, mosquito traps and natural methods like using BTi-proteins , and some interesting attempts by scientists to sterilize mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes are attracted to CO2

After all, mosquitos are known to cause millions of deaths worldwide every year due to transmitting malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever and other diseases. However, there are more than 3,000 species of mosquitoes and not all species transmit all diseases. Anopheles mosquitoes are the only species known to transmit the horrible malaria.

I remember, the first time I had to take malaria prophylaxis I had the worst nightmares ever. I actually had no idea it was possible to dream that way. Nightmares are known side effects of malaria prophylaxis. So if the prophylaxis could do that to me and really don’t want to experience what real malaria is like.

A friend

There is however one type of mosquito which does not drink blood. This type is called Toxorhynchites. They actually eat the larvae of other mosquito species. Wow! Well done! So on a positive note at the end, I think these ones could actually become our friends.

simplyilka

Hi I'm Ilka, a self-development writer and coach with a quirky but knowledgeable expertise in science in general and brain science in particular. I help people realize the power our behavior has on our brain - and the other way around.

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jorobinson176 - December 15, 2013 Reply

I’ve had it quite a couple of times – the worst was when I had to take quinine as a last resort treatment. Really nasty side effects there too.

    simplyilka - December 16, 2013 Reply

    Thank you! It is always so interesting to hear from people who experienced malaria. Have you been bitten many times or was the malaria recurrent?

      jorobinson176 - December 18, 2013 Reply

      I lived in Zimbabwe for 18 years (till 6 months ago) and got bitten every year. Got malaria about 15 times – progressively worse each time. Blackwater fever twice. It’s a terrible thing up there where many people don’t have access to drugs and often it kills.

    simplyilka - December 19, 2013 Reply

    Oh my dear! What a story. I guess I have to read your African Me & Satellite TV now.

Denise - December 15, 2013 Reply

This is really interesting. Mosquitoes love me so I must give off lots of CO2.

Interesting to hear about the dreams too.

Roll on the day when mosquitoes are eradicated. It’s a tragedy that in this day and age world science is not prioritising this because it’s not a problem in the developed world.

Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist - December 15, 2013 Reply

Presumably in our efforts to eradicate mosquitos we will also wipe out the Toxorhynchites. Sad cause I like them already. Perhaps a huge breeding program should be undertaken and release back to the wild.
We lived in a malaria zone and didn’t take prophylaxis due to the side effects. My husband contracted malaria numerous times and dengue once. Either he had more CO2, which I doubt as I get bitten by sandflies and he doesn’t, or I was religious with applying insect repellant, using medicated bed nets and the like.

    simplyilka - December 16, 2013 Reply

    Thank you Irene! That’s fascinating. Where did you live? I was only visiting areas with malaria for shorter periods, but I know that people who live there usually cannot take prophylaxis all the time. It is also interesting to see why some people get infected with malaria and some don’t. Hmmm! have to look into that 😉
    I hope you husband has totally recovered 🙂

      Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist - December 16, 2013 Reply

      We lived on a remote island of Vanuatu. It was the local children who were most at risk. My husband has fully recovered (luckily it was not the recurring type) but I think his immune system has suffered and since this time he succumbs to viruses very easily.:)

    simplyilka - December 16, 2013 Reply

    Wow, Vanuatu. That’s worth writing memoires. You must have seen and experienced a lot there.

appletonavenue - December 16, 2013 Reply

I have to admit to not know quite all there was to the life cycle of a mosquito. I only know that if I am in a room with 12 people and one mosquito, I’m the only one that gets bit.

Sherri - December 16, 2013 Reply

This is so interesting Ilka…what an absolutely detestable creature. You taught me so much about their life cycle, I had no idea that it was only the females that did the biting and blood sucking. Ewwww!! I also didn’t realise that the more CO2 a person gives off the more likely they are to be bitten.

Malaria is a terrible disease and the more we learn about these mosquitos and how to erradicate them for good the better. Bring on those Toxorhynchites I say!

Brilliant, informative and educational post, thank you for the great science lesson today.

irenedesign2011 - December 16, 2013 Reply

Interesting. You just got a new follower.
Irene

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