The mosquito is a species that has changed very little since primitive times. It’s true that only female mosquitoes suck blood, but it is not their main food. Nectar from flowers is the main diet of this insect. Females suck blood only to provide the food needed for healthy, fertile eggs. When she lands on a human or other animal, she uses her proboscis, mouth part, to pierce the skin and draw blood into her abdomen. Because the male mosquito has no need for blood he does not possess a proboscis.
The Mosquito Welt
When the female mosquito pierces the skin, she leaves a small bit of saliva, containing a type of chemical, that keeps the blood from clotting. This makes it easier for her to suck the blood out and keeps it from clotting up in her narrow feeding canal. The welt she leaves behind is actually an allergic reaction to her saliva. Highly sensitive people may keep this itchy welt for several weeks, but normally it goes away within a couple of hours.
What’s the Attraction
It’s true that some people attract more female mosquitoes than others. Most of the reasoning behind this is a still a mystery. But science does know that sweat is one of the things they find attractive. People who perspire less, attract less mosquitoes. Over the 30 million years they have been with us, the females have improved their ability to find the nutrient they need to reproduce. They use three main sensors to locate the perfect blood host.
* Chemical Sensors: Both birds and mammals exhale carbon dioxide and lactic acid when they breath. Scientists have found that the female mosquito can detect these gasses from up to 100 feet away. Perfumes, soap, detergent and hairspray can all either detract or attract them, but in most cases only the mosquito knows which they dislike.
* Visual Sensors: Female mosquitoes can see a variation between your clothing and the background and if it’s moving, they know it’s alive. That’s what they’re looking for, fresh blood.
*Heat Sensors: Once mosquitoes get close enough, they can detect the heat coming off of a mammal. Light colors hold less heat than dark colors and so clothing that is dark is more attractive to them.
Should we wipe mosquitoes off the face of the Earth?
Read this article: Mosquitoes. What Are They Good For
The Diseases Mosquitoes Carry
Insects that feed on blood can distribute diseases from one host to another. Female mosquitoes are the best transmitters of disease of all insects and animals alike. The cause of these diseases come from a human parasite that she carries with her after taking blood from an infected person. The parasite will mature while in the mosquito, when she gets blood from another human, the parasite moves into the new human body.
Malaria is one of those diseases where as Encephalitis is passed from an infected bird to the mosquito and on to humans. Yellow fever is a monkey virus that is transmitted to humans via mosquitoes. She will carry the parasite of Heart Worm from dog to dog that turns into a large worm living in a dog’s heart. Thank goodness, this worm does not develop in humans. Good news, the mosquito cannot pass AIDS from human to human. The virus is treated as food and digested by the mosquito.
No Winter Mosquitoes
Being cold blooded, mosquitoes cannot regulate their body heat, thus their temperature stays the same as their environment. They like a temperature of about 80 degrees and start getting lazy at 60 degrees and do not function below 50 degrees. If you live in an area that drops below 50 degrees at any given time, you won’t see them. They are in hibernation. Also some species lay winter hardy eggs that allow the larva to also hibernate during the cold months. The eggs end up under ice and hatch when the water temperature rises. However, in many tropical locations they are a problem year round as the temperature remains above 60 degrees. There are some species in these locations that do not use a host meal of blood to reproduce fertile eggs.
The Mosquito State
New Jerseys is known as the “Mosquito State” as 63 of the 150 species found in North America have been located within it’s boundaries. However, 3000 different species have been discovered within the world.