Mosquitoes Blood Sucking Insects Insect Borne Diseases West Nile Virus

Mosquitoes are one of life’s minor annoyances (unless you live in a place where malaria and other serious insect-borne diseases are rampant- then they can be deadly) yet can be intriguing creatures when studied.

Many people are not even aware that only the female mosquito bites and consumes blood, but it’s true. The male mosquito lives entirely on the nectar from flowers, and fruit juices. Actually, both the male and the female drink nectar, because they need the natural plant sugars for the energy to survive. In fact, the female mosquito doesn’t actually need blood to survive, she needs it to produce and lay fertile eggs. So the next time you are picnicking or hiking through the deep woods and are unfortunate enough to be attacked by these flying pests, remember that you are playing a very important part in the mosquito reproduction cycle.

It is easy to tell male from female mosquitoes. The males are much larger, often up to three times as big as a female. Also, the biting female is the only one that has that dreaded whining hum as she flies around your face. The male has no interest in you and will happily leave you alone.

Most mosquitoes prefer to feed during the cooler dawn and dusk, hiding away during the heat of the day. Because of this, it’s best to stay away from mosquito-infested areas, such as woods and any place where there is stagnant water, during these hours.

Mosquitoes are primarily attracted to warm-blooded creatures, such as humans, horses, birds, and other creatures. Because of this, there are a number of diseases that can be introduced from any one of these species into another, sometimes with serious effects. West Nile Virus is one of the newest and deadliest in the US, and it is carried by mosquitoes. It has recently been shown that dogs, too, can be infected with West Nile. Previously the disease was thought to only affect birds, horses, and people.

Mosquitoes rely on several senses to locate their targets. The most important one is their ability to detect carbon dioxide, which is exhaled through breath. The insects are attracted to carbon dioxide, and use it to find their next meal. They are also attracted to movement, which usually indicates a blood-filled living creature is nearby; and also can detect heat.

When a mosquito bites, it injects its saliva, which acts as an clotting agent in the blood. The painful, itchy welts that develop are a result of the body’s immune system kicking in against this powerful foreign agent. Some people have more severe reactions to mosquito bites than others. Also, some people are more attractive to mosquitoes than others. The reasons why are unknown at this time.

Perhaps the best news is that mosquitoes have short life-spans- usually lasting just a few days. But there are always an abundance of new ones to replace those that die off.

Such is life.