Shocking Mosquito Facts That Will Raise Hairs On Your Skin
Don't you just love the summer? The sun is beaming on our sun-starved faces, the days are longer, and people seem happier. However, there is one significant trade-off to contend with, and it isn't pesky wasps or sweaty commutes into work. It's those darn mosquitos.
These blood-sucking insects aren't as vampiric as the media would have you believe, but many species like nothing more than to feast on our blood and leave us scratching our skin for days on end. In some areas of the world, their bites can lead to a major bout of illness, and in many cases, death.
After all, mosquitos carry various viruses, and after reading up on them, it seems there is still a lot we don't know about Earth's deadliest creature, so below are twelve facts about mosquitos that will probably make you even more scared of them than you already are.
1. Nearly 1m people die each year from mosquito bites
Mosquitos are one of the most dangerous species alive due to the sheer volume of people that die from their bites each year. In fact, some 725,000 people a year are thought to die from the diseases mosquitos carry, which range from malaria, zika and dengue to yellow fever, filariasis, tularemia.
2. The word 'mosquito' is actually a Spanish word
Male mosquitos belong to the family Culicidae while females of most species (for which there are over 3,000) are ectoparasites, whose tube-like mouthparts penetrate the victim's skin to consume blood, a practice which lends itself to the word "mosquito" which is Spanish for "little fly". Interestingly, to locate their next meal, they use a special organ called a maxillary palp which helps them track the smell of CO2 released from our breath.
Research has shown that they may also have a liking for beer drinkers. How scary is that?!
3. Mosquito bites are responsible for millions of people falling ill
While it might be little surprise to know that mosquitos are responsible for almost three-quarters of a million deaths each year, a staggering 700 million people are thought to be affected by them in different ways, from fatigue, headache, back and body aches, vomiting and nausea to victims complaining of a stiff neck. If untreated, this can manifest itself pretty quickly and even cause death.
4. Mosquitos are (probably) older than your grandparents
Baring Antarctica, mosquitos are found across the world, though are omnipresent in Africa and parts of South-East Asia and have been around for as long as the Triassic Period! This makes mosquitos as old as Dinosaurs, something producers working on the Jurassic Park film picked up on, as they used blood found in fossilised mosquitoes to clone the rip-roaring creatures that filled the park.
5. Mosquitoes don’t only suck on human blood
You might already be panicking about the possible threat of death by a mosquito, but before you shut all your windows and never leave your house again, it's important to bear in mind that there are a plethora of mosquitoes out there, each with their unique taste buds.
While some can't resist a good old sip of human blood, others take a more cultured approach and get their kicks from other animals such as frogs and birds.
6. While they are prehistoric creatures, they don't live very long
There may be an infinite number of mosquitos buzzing around our planet, but you won't have to put up with them for long, as their lifespan usually consists of little over 2 months.
7. There aren't many chemicals to protect humans from a mosquito bite
While malaria nets are commonly used in vast swathes of Africa and in areas where mosquitos are prevalent, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surprisingly lists only 4 effective repellents to ward off mosquitoes. These are DEET, Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus and IR3535.
There's also an issue with the drugs that are used to treat malaria. Impacting 250 million people each year and killing over 1m, a fifth of those deaths could have been prevented had it not been for counterfeit anti-malarial drugs.
8. Mosquitos are mean dancers
As well as being perfect candidates for the Twilight series, (we're sure there's a sparkling mosquito called Edward Cullen somewhere), these blood-hungry insects are lither than we give them credit.
Keen observers of mosquitos discovered that before mating, they share a dance which sees them beating their wings before doing the deed.
Peacocks, eat your heart out!
9. Olympics? You're having a laugh
Mosquitos and the Olympics? Where are we going with this? Well, let us explain. Remember the Zica virus that affected preparations for the Rio Olympics? Well, many athletes actually pulled out because of the risk certain mosquitoes posed, but their impact on the tournament itself didn't go any further.
When drawn up against other insects such as flies and wasps, mosquitoes would finish last in an insect Olympics race by some distance. Though ossessing a potent bite, they can only fly between 1 and 1.5 mph, so you don't have to worry about being chased by killer swarms of mosquitos anytime soon.
10. It's the females you need to watch out for
A common misconception is that all mosquitoes bite, but only females like to tuck into a good old glass of blood as the protein, and other composites give female mosquitoes the necessary ingredients to help them produce and nurture their eggs.
This leads me to believe that mosquitos might be the only species on Earth where the man isn't aggressive and overbearing.
11. The world's deadliest animal
Hollywood has long told us that sharks and spiders are the animals we should fear most, but if you do a bit of research, you'll find that cases of blood-sucking spiders and bone-crushing sharks are few and far between. In reality, neither of these creatures come close to matching the brutality mosquitos are capable of.
While such brutality is far less overt than the violence seen from tigers and sharks, the harmful diseases that they carry and spread lead to more deaths than any other animal despite many people viewing them as an annoyance rather than a threat. As Bill Gates, one of the greatest minds alive, recently tweeted, "sharks are cool, but they’re not even close to being the deadliest animal."
12. The afternoon is the best time to avoid mosquitos
The afternoon is your best bet of having a mosquito-free day as temperatures are at their hottest, causing insects to rest in cooler places. Another piece of advice is to remove any signs of standing water that is near your home as females lay their eggs in shallow water.
After all, the last thing you want is a swarm of ravenous mosquitos attacking you the moment you open your front door.