The Mysteries Behind Mosquitos
The Mysteries Behind Mosquitos
Ancient Resilient Pests
Mosquitos have been biting since the time of the dinosaurs and have adapted throughout time to continue to pester all living things. They have also managed to spread to all of the continents on Earth except for Antarctica and have evolved into over 3,000 different species.
Males vs. Females
Not all mosquitos suck blood. It’s actually only the females that seek out sanguine meals, while the males dine exclusively on nectar from flowers. Males are also significantly smaller than their female counterparts and have furry antennas extending forward from their heads. These antennas are actually used to pick up on the infamous buzzing that females make as they fly, allowing them to hone-in on mates. However, even if you’ve identified a mosquito as a “vegetarian” male this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t swat them – they can still mate to make more bloodsuckers to bother you.
Female mosquitos live an average of a month or two while males only last for about two weeks after hatching. The eggs of mosquitos are both laid in and hatched from standing bodies of water, which is why mosquito activity is so frequent around ponds, creeks, etc. Due to their short life spans, they don’t typically want to travel too far away from their breeding grounds and end up traveling a radius of only about a mile or two to seek out blood meals.
What Happens When They Bite?
Mosquitos are actually very cautious creatures and will even actively avoid people that constantly swat. Once they have found someone to bite, they attempt to approach with as much caution as a buzzing insect can, and they begin to feed, hoping you don’t notice. But the feeding does not begin immediately. The straw-like mouth (proboscis) of a mosquito is actually made up of six sharp needle-like components called stylets that pierce the skin of their prey. It can take a moment for insertion and it is the most dangerous moment of their feeding process as the initial bite is often felt by their prey. Once the proboscis is inserted, they immediately inject their saliva into the wound, creating a numbing sensation to mask their presence. The enzymes in their saliva also improve blood flow, acting as an anticoagulant so that the blood they’re sucking doesn’t clot. Once they’ve begun feeding, the process actually takes the mosquito roughly three minutes in order for their bellies to be full and, during this time, they are risking death by swatting.
If they’re lucky enough to survive the feeding, they’ll leave behind an itchy red bump. This is actually an allergic reaction to the enzymes in the mosquito’s saliva and is such a common reaction, that it is rare to find people who are not allergic.
Why Do They Need Blood?
It seems exceedingly odd that one gender requires blood, while the other can survive solely on nectar. However, the blood has less to do with a diet preference and everything to do with procreation. Females require a high dose of protein and iron, which is what blood is rich in, in order to produce their eggs.
Oddly enough, as much as we seem to be the main targets of mosquitos, we are often not their first choice for a blood dinner. Far often mosquitos greatly prefer the local wildlife, but when humans are easily available, they have no qualms with feasting on us instead.
What Happens to Your Body When a Mosquito Bites You (2019) YouTube. Brightside. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91X8RcJBFwA (Accessed: July 2020).