Saturday, June 15, 2024
10 Neat Things

About Mosquitoes

1. Blood suckers or nectar suppers?

In spite of what you’ve heard, mosquitoes don’t eat blood. They eat nectar from flowers – and sip sugar from fruit and take other nourishment from decaying matter. It’s true, though, that they do suck blood — at least the female does. And who can blame her? She is only trying to produce and nourish her eggs like any good mother.


2. No, they don’t bite.

Okay, maybe I’m putting too fine a point on this, but technically, mosquitoes don’t bite, they suck (well, they do suck, don’t they?!) They insert their stinger into your skin, pumping in a little bit of saliva laced with an anesthetic and an anti-clotting chemical. This is very irritating to many people and causes that unbearable itch. A little rubbing alcohol should help relieve the sting.


3. Stinky feet? Grab the Deet!

It has been shown that mosquitoes are attracted to the bacteria that cause smelly feet, which is why you get more attacks there than on your legs. They also like the odour of perspiration and, if you are a hot-blooded creature, that heat will also attract them. Wear light coloured clothing to discourage them, stay away from floral scents and wash your feet with non-perfumed soap. Mosquitoes prefer blood types O and A and are most attracted to children.


4. Messianic!

Image: xpda, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

They are so light on their feet that on landing not even a spider can detect them when they blunder onto a web. They can walk on water and they can fly between raindrops. Their wings beat 250 times per second.


5. The better to smell you with, my dear.

They have an acute sense of smell. They can detect the carbon dioxide you exude, but they also like the scent of floral perfumes and deodorizers. No matter how clean you are, they can smell you at 100 feet.


6. The better to see you with, my dear.

Mosquitoes don’t see detail all that well, but they have compound, panoramic eyes made of motion-detecting cells – their eyes take up most of their head space – and they can see your mass at 100 feet. Their eyes also deliver images of infra red heat. At three feet, thermal receptors on the tips of their hairy antennae are activated to home in on their hot-blooded target – you. When it is humid, this heat receptor range triples. This may be why we perceive that mosquitoes “bite” more before a storm!


7. The better to hear you with, my dear.

The hearing of a mosquito is so acute that the non-stinging males can hear the faintest beat of a female mosquito’s wings. When they do, they synchronize their wing beat to match that of their prospective mate. While compelling, the encounter is brief – 15 seconds in mid air. Since the males live only about 10 to 20 days, they need to make the most of their time. Females on the other hand, can live up to 100 days, though most survive only 28 to 56 days.


8. Vicious little beasts.

A few million years ago, mosquitoes were three times the size they are now. (Today, the world’s largest mosquito apparently resides at Komarno, MB. It has a 15-foot wingspan, rotates with the wind and is made of metal.) Mosquitoes are everywhere, though, and there are 2,500 to 3,000 species, 75 of which exist in Canada. Some of them specialize in rodent, frog or snake blood, some go after horses, some like birds. Culex genus take blood from both humans and birds (crows, ravens, magpies) which is how they spread West Nile virus. Culex is most active at dawn and dusk but not during the day. West Nile virus can also infect horses.


9. Kill or be killed.

Because they are the vector for so many deadly diseases (West Nile virus, malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever and encephalitis), mosquitoes are blamed for more deaths than anything else. They can even infect dogs and cats with heartworm. They don’t, however, spread HIV; that virus is destroyed in the mosquito gut. Deet and picaridin are the most effective deterrents. Zappers and all those other devices simply don’t work and can even attract more mosquitoes to your yard!


10. Prevent breeding.

Image: James Gathany, CDC, CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Culex varieties are the backyard mosquitoes in Canada. The female will lay her eggs in places where water will collect — in dry mud near ditches, in cavities in trees and so on – or in water, but it must be still, stagnant water. An aeration device placed in water will keep eggs from developing. The life cycle from egg to adult takes four to 10 days, so change that birdbath water twice a week. Some eggs can survive in a dormant state for up to five years or even longer in cold or dry ground, waiting for the right conditions to revitalize. Most mosquitoes remain within a mile of their birthplace, but they can fly a great deal further looking for blood.

– Dorothy Dobbie Copyright©
Pegasus Publications Inc.