32 Things You Did Not Know about Mosquitoes

Insects from hell

These are the strangest females invented by nature. But they do not ruin the life of their own males but ours. Mosquitoes are insects of the Order Diptera (thus related with the flies, even "mosquito" is a Spanish word meaning "little fly"), suborder Nematocera ("with thin antennae") and belong to the Culicidae family.

1. Mosquitoes came into being during the Jurassic Epoch, over 175 million years ago, so dinosaurs did experience the 'mosquito nightmare'...

2. There are over 3,000 varieties of mosquitoes, from the Arctic tundra to the tropical rain forests, and from the sea level to the height of Himalaya. In fact, all that mosquitoes require to remain active are temperatures over 55 ºF (12.7 ºC). Thus, they are practically anywhere, even in the desert oases, even if the highest diversity of species is encountered in wet and warm areas.

3. Most are active at dawn and dusk, sheltering during the day in dense vegetation, houses, farms but for many tropical species they are midday food.

4. Mosquitoes vary in their size: they reach 1.6-12.5 mm (0.5 inch). Fossil mosquitoes were even 5 cm (2 inch) long.

5. Mosquitoes do not bite, they suck. 1,200,000 mosquitoes would be necessary to completely drain the average human of blood. Well, unless you die before, but of irritation.

6. An experiment in the Canadian tundra found that people who bared arms, legs and torsos reported approximately 9,000 bites per minute from swarming, newly hatched mosquitoes. In two hours, an individual could lose 50 % of his blood.

7. Only the female bites and she does this on humans but also on other vertebrates, from elephants to mice and turtles, sucking their blood. This food is necessary for the development of the ovaries and maturing of the eggs. Some species can develop without the female ingesting previously blood, but when the opportunity appears, they will do it (like in some Culex).

A sole blood droplet ensures the growth of hundreds of mosquito eggs. The most exposed persons to mosquito bite are those of blood types 0 and A and younger persons.

8. The males do not bite; they eat just plant juices and nectar.

9. The sting of the mosquito may look simple but on microscope it is extremely complicated; it is formed of 6 pieces: two tubes, a salivary one and a feeding one, surrounded by two sharp mandibles and two scalpels with saw-like teeth. All 6 pieces are wrapped in a sheath that protects them on all their length. The sting is implanted into the skin for a few mm till it reaches a minute blood vessel.

10. Mosquitoes possess olfactive and thermic organs onto their hairy pair of antennae and the three pairs of legs that head them to the their victim based on their expelled carbon dioxide, warmth and sweat.

11. Eyes occupy most of a mosquito`s head. These compound-lensed organs deliver infrared images of heat emanated from a body.

12. Male mosquito "ears" have as many sensory cells as human ears, they help males identify and pursue the females. When a mosquito tracks down the whine of the opposite sex, it begins to synchronize its own pitch to fit that of the potential mate. Males can "relate" to girl frequencies in a second or two. Females take several times longer to synchronize.

13. Mosquitoes can mate in midair, often in just 15 seconds from approaching to fare-thee-well.

14. Mosquitoes can smell their dinner from up to 50 meters (166 ft). Mosquitoes can travel 40 miles (64 km) looking for a meal.

15. To detect you, mosquitoes use the carbon dioxide you exhale. People with high concentrations of steroids or cholesterol on their skin surface attract mosquitoes and this is a genetic trait.

Mosquitoes are also attracted by uric acid present in the sweat and movement. Practicing sports in a mosquito-infested area is a bad idea as increased exhaled carbon dioxide (due to panting) and uric acid (due to sweating) turns you into a mosquitoes' magnet.

16. The blood has the ability to clot, so, through the salivary tube, the mosquito female pumps anti-clotting chemicals that keep the blood fluid, so she can suck it easily. The saliva also has an anesthetic chemical. The saliva that remains inside the skin is extremely irritating for the victim after the anesthetic effect is gone, causing an unbearable itch.

17. Do not scratch the bitten place. The best solution is alcohol, which eases the pain.

18. The greatest problem of the mosquito bite is not the itch, but the parasites that mosquitoes, mostly in tropics, can transmit through their saliva. Anopheles mosquitoes transmit malaria, a blood parasite that kills up to 3 million people annually (over one million just in Africa) and infects 300 million people each year on the tropics.

The Aedes mosquitoes are vectors for many viruses like those of the yellow fever, hepatitis or encephalitis. Dengue and West Nile viruses are also transmitted by mosquitoes.

In fact, mosquitoes are considered the animals responsible for the highest number of human deaths worldwide annually. But remember: they do not transmit HIV, as the virus would die in the mosquito`s digestive system.

19. Mosquitoes can fly between the rain droplets and with 1.5-2.5 km (0.9-1.6 mi)/h at most 5 minutes at once with a wing rhythm of 250 beats/seconds! This rhythm determines their buzz and they would like not to generate it; otherwise their presence would be undetectable till they bite. Mosquitoes can make various aerial stunts, like turns, loopings, forced landings, dives. Unlike other insects, mosquitoes and flies have just one pair of wings (not two), the second being turned into two organs that detect altitude and acceleration, allowing the insect to adapt permanently to the flight's parameters.

20. Their step on the victim is so smooth that it cannot be detected. They can even step on spider webs without the spider to feel anything!...

21. They have the rare ability of walking on the water. Only a type of water bug is known to do this (except mosquitoes).

22. In temperate zones, adult females winter in various sheltered places and when the winter is gone, they start feeding with blood and another mosquito generation is on the way.

23. Mosquitoes larvae are aquatic and as little as the water from garbage cans, old tiles, barrels, washbasins, wet basements, bathrooms, kitchens, balconies is enough to ensure their development, and combating the mosquito population in an area can result a tough task. As the larvae breathe oxygen from the air, they are not affected by the water quality.

24. The mosquito eggs are very resistant to drought and cold, being able to resist till five years in cold and dry ground till the next warm rain and in a week, the larvae go out from the eggs.

25. There are other insects from Nematocera that look like mosquitoes, are found also around waters and are completely harmless, as their females do not suck blood and they ingest just plant sap, like midges from Chironomidae, Tipulidae (crane flies) while other diptera that do not look quite like a mosquito, from Simuliidae (black flies), Ceratopogonidae (biting midges), Glossinidae (tsetse flies) families (only some examples) but DO bite for blood and transmit extremely severe parasites, like sleeping sickness and worms that provoke river blindness, filariasis or elephantiasis.

26. The world`s largest statue of a mosquito is a local attraction in Komarno, Manitoba, the Mosquito Capital of Canada. ("Komarno" means in Ukrainian "mosquito"). The steel statue was made in 1984 and has a wingspan of 15 feet (5 m).

27. In 1998, researchers discovered a new mosquito species in the London Underground, evolved from ancestors that flew in when the tunnels were dug 100 years ago. Once bird feeders, they now enjoy a menu of rats, mice and human blood. They do not interbreed with their aboveground counterparts. Their DNA actually varies from one subway line to another.

28. Central America`s so-called Mosquito Coast (a thin strip of land along the Caribbean in Honduras and Nicaragua) is not named after the insect, but after the indigenous Miskito Indians.

29. In Abuja, Nigeria, in 2000 the world`s biggest mosquito net was unveiled, as part of a national campaign against malaria and other insect-borne diseases. Two hundred children fit under it.

30. The best mosquito repellent is DEET, but other solutions are lemon eucalyptus oil (traded as Repel) and soybean oil, citronella, cedar, peppermint, lemongrass and geranium.

Mosquito traps can also offer protection. They emit mosquitoes attracting factors, like carbon dioxide, heat, moisture and others, trapping or destroying mosquitoes. When located in good breeding spots, they can knock mosquito populations down.

31.A radio station from Poland used an odd method of combating mosquitoes. Radio Zet emitted a continuous ultrasound signal, which even if not heard by the human ear, imitated the bat sonar and could be heard by mosquitoes. This kept away of this radio channel listeners any mosquito.

32.Some plants with prickly scent can chase away the mosquitoes, like the garlic.

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