20 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT MOSQUITOES
Here’s one thing you did know: they suck!
Mosquitoes have been with us for millennia of millennia. Whatever for?
1 The world’s largest statue of a mosquito is a roadside attraction in Komarno, Manitoba, the Mosquito Capital of Canada. Because every country should have a mosquito capital, I guess. (And “Komarno” is Ukrainian for “mosquito.” Canadians!)
2 There are more than 2,500 varieties of mosquito (some entomologists claim 3,000).
3 In 1998, researchers found a new mosquito species in the London Underground, descended from ancestors that flew in when the tunnels were dug 100 years ago. Once bird-feeders, they now feast on a menu of rats, mice, and people.
4 They rarely interbreed with their aboveground colleagues.
5 Their DNA actually varies from one subway line to another.
6 It would take 1,200,000 mosquitoes, each sucking once, to completely drain the average human of blood.
7 Which seems unlikely to happen. But then again in the Arctic, Canadian researchers who bared their arms, legs, and torsos reported as many as 9,000 bites/sucks per minute from swarming, newly hatched mosquitoes. At that rate, an individual could lose half his blood in two hours. So, you know, don’t tempt fate.
8 Once a feeding mosquito is full, a chemical signal shuts down the intake. When that signal is disabled in the lab, mosquitoes suck until they explode.
9 It is hard to get upset about that.
10 According to a University of Bristol study, male mosquito “ears” are packed with about as many sensory cells as human ears, helping amorous mosquito males identify and pursue passing females.
11 When a mosquito detects the whine of the opposite sex, it begins to synchronize its own pitch to match that of the potential mate. Randy males can “relate” to girl frequencies in a second or two. Females take several times longer to synchronize. This is the same timetable with humans in a bar.
12 Wham bam, thank you ma’am! Mosquitoes can mate in midair, in as little as 15 seconds from approach to having to go.
13 Only females drink blood, for protein to make eggs. Male mosquitoes are actually sensitive vegetarians, living on nectar and plant juices.
14 Millions of years ago, mosquitoes were three times as large as they are today.
15 Millions of years from now, they are going to be really tiny.
16 Mosquitoes use your exhaled breath to track you down, especially when you sleep or have been exercising. Fortunately, they clock out at only 1.5 mph—so you can’t hide, but you can run. Unless you’re on a treadmill. Then they’ll get you.
17 Central America’s so-called Mosquito Coast (a thin strip of land along the Caribbean in Honduras and Nicaragua) is not named for the insect, but after a mispronunciation of the indigenous Miskito Indians.
18 Abuja, Nigeria, is home to the world’s biggest mosquito net, unveiled in 2000 as part of a national campaign against malaria and other insect-borne diseases. Two hundred children fit under it.
19 Millions of people alive today will die of a mosquito-transmitted disease. Malaria alone claims some 1,000,000 lives a year in Africa. Other top killers include dengue, yellow fever, and West Nile virus. That’s incredibly sobering.
20 But they won’t die of AIDS transmission. HIV-infected humans actually have very few virus particles in their bloodstream, and should a mosquito suck one up, it gets killed by the mosquito’s digestive system.