Mosquitoes are probably the most hated of all insects, and it isn’t just because their bites are annoyingly itchy. Mosquitoes are considered the most dangerous animal in the world because of how many people die yearly due to diseases like malaria, dengue fever, and yellow fever.
Yet, if you take a closer look, you’ll realize that mosquitoes are actually quite fascinating. These 10 facts about mosquitoes won’t necessarily make them any less annoying or dangerous, but they might make you hate them less. 🙂
1. Mosquitoes Have Been Around Since the Cretaceous Period
Long before man dominated the earth, mosquitoes were here. The oldest known mosquito fossils date back 200 million years! It’s not a coincidence that flowering plants also first appeared during this period because of mosquitoes role in pollination.
Image credit: Mosquito in Amber, by Didier Desouens, Found on Wiki Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0
2. Mosquitoes Have an Important Role in the Food Chain
You might hate seeing mosquitoes, but you probably love observing other outdoor creatures like fish, frogs, newts, and birds. Well, without mosquitoes, these critters we love would lose a valuable food source.
Mosquitoes lay their eggs in water. They hatch into larvae which live in the water, feeding off of algae. These mosquito larvae are an important food source for fish and amphibians. Once the larvae turn into adults and start to fly, they serve as food for birds, bats, and spiders.
3. Mosquitoes Eat Nectar
All mosquitoes feed on plant nectar as well as honey dew. This is how they get energy to sustain themselves. Just like with other nectar-feeding insects, this makes mosquitoes important pollinators. Certain plants particularly rely on mosquitoes for pollination – especially goldenrod and orchids.
4. Only the Females Bite
You probably already know that only female mosquitoes suck blood. But do you know the reason why? It is because the females need the proteins from our blood to sustain their growing eggs.
5. Mosquitoes Have a Fascinating Way of Hunting
As much as you may hate them, you’ve got to appreciate how good mosquitoes are at hunting. They find hosts by detecting chemicals which are given off in our breath and sweat.
Mosquitoes can actually detect over 70 types of odors and chemicals in their antennae! And they can do so from hundreds of feet away.
Once the female mosquito picks up the chemical scent, she zooms in on the host. They can detect the heat from our blood so know exactly where to strike for their meal.
6. Mosquitoes Hibernate
Ever wonder how mosquitoes make it through the winter? Like many mammals and insects, many mosquitoes hibernate. As soon as the temperatures get below 50 degrees F, their bodies slow down (they are cold-blooded). The males generally die off whereas the females find a hole to sleep in until warmer weather.
Not all mosquitoes hibernate though. Some females lay their eggs in water and then die. The eggs stay dormant through the winter and then hatch once the weather gets warm
7. Mosquitoes Can Fly in the Rain
A single raindrop has 55 times more mass than a mosquito – yet mosquitoes can adeptly fly through the rain. How is this possible?
Instead of trying to dodge the raindrops like many other flying insects do, mosquitoes just let the raindrops land on them. The big raindrops lose very little momentum when they crash down on the comparably-tiny mosquito. The mosquito don’t try to fight against the raindrop. Instead, they allow themselves to be pushed down inside of the raindrop and then work themselves out of it before the raindrop hits the ground.
8. Mosquitoes Were the Inspiration for Inventions
Many inventors turn to nature for inspiration. One recent invention inspired by mosquitoes is the microneedle – a hypodermic needle which allows for near painless injections or blood withdrawals. The inventors studied the shape of mosquitoes’ proboscis (the blood sucker).
Unlike standard hypodermic needles which have a smooth shape, the mosquito proboscis is jagged on the outside. This jagged shape causes less contact with the nerves and skin tissue. After the jagged outer part has entered the skin, the mosquito then inserts a smooth tube to do the actual blood sucking.
9. Mosquitoes Court Lovers with a Symphony
Mosquitoes have poor vision, so how do they find a mate? They do it with the sound of their buzzing wings. When a male is looking for a lover, he starts fluctuating his wing speed produce high-pitched buzzes. If a female is nearby, she will adjust her wing speed to match the male’s speed. What results is a synchronized duet.
Interestingly, two males are not able to match their wing speeds. It is the females who are good at making subtle changes. Thus, two males don’t accidentally come together while looking for a mate.
10. New Gene Splicing Technology Could Kill Off All Mosquitoes
One of the coolest – and scariest – new technologies to be invented is the CRISPR gene editing tool. Basically, CRISPR utilizes proteins to remove pieces of DNA and swap them out for a different DNA.
We’ve long had the ability to swap out DNA, but the process was mostly manual. CRISPR technology makes it possible to dramatically change genes very quickly.
Scientists are considering using CRISPR to eradicate mosquitoes completely by editing their genes so the females can’t produce eggs. Not everyone is behind this idea though, especially considering mosquitoes’ role in the food chain.
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