Mosquitoes may be one of the smallest critters on earth, but they are also at the top of the list of most annoying. Like ticks, spiders and snakes, not many people are fans of theirs.
One branch of science, entomologists, study insects. Fortunately, among entomologists, a few are willing to study those buzzy little blood suckers known as mosquitoes. In studying them, they’ve learned a few things–facts that can be helpful to the rest of us.
Here are some interesting facts about mosquitoes.
Fact: Mosquitoes Can be Trained
When an annoying fly or other insect buzzes by, we tend to swat at them. Even horses and cows, lacking hands, will swat at insects with their tails.
When it comes to a mosquito, that swat may be aimed to kill. But even if you miss, scientists have discovered that swatting at mosquitoes can train them to stay away. While the exact mechanism is not known, entomologists have a pretty good idea what is going on. As tiny as they are, their little bug brains identify a smell, your smell, and if you swat at them (an unpleasant behavior) they learn to associate your smell with that unpleasant action. They studied thousands of mosquitoes and found this training can hold true for about 24 hours.
Fact: Mosquitoes Smell You
Speaking of smelling, mosquitoes are surprisingly adept at it.
As you learned in elementary school science, the balance of the ecosystem has animals breathing out carbon dioxide (CO2), which plants breathe in. They then breathe out oxygen, which we breathe in.
Mosquitoes take advantage of that system and detect small amounts of carbon dioxide exhaled by animals from up to 75 feet away. As small as they are, that’s quite an excellent sniffer!
Fact: Mosquitoes Don’t Bite
Even though that mosquito smells you, it doesn’t actually bite you. We talk about mosquito “bites,” but what they actually do is insert a tiny, straw-like part, called a proboscis, into the skin of their prey, and extract a small amount of blood. It’s more like a needle than a bite with teeth (which is why mosquitoes spread disease from one animal to another). A little bit of their saliva also gets under the skin.
That characteristic “itch” after a mosquito bite is a histamine reaction (allergic reaction) to mosquito saliva.
It would be more accurate, and yet take so much longer to say, “A mosquito stabbed me with its proboscis, extracted some blood and deposited some of its saliva!” It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue to say it that way. So, instead we say, “I got a mosquito bite!”
Another interesting fact, only certain species of the thousands out there, and only the females of those species, actually do the “biting.” Males eat nectar.
Fact: Mosquitoes Move Slowly but Travel Far
Not only can a mosquito smell you from 75 feet away, but they may travel great distances during their short lives–some as far as 100 miles away from where they hatched! Their tiny wings beat as many as 600 times every second!
With all of that smelling and moving and traveling, you might think they could do so quickly. Yet, mosquitoes really only fly between 1 and 1.5 miles per hour. Considering their body size, that might sound fast, but other occupants of the insect world, like beetles and cockroaches travel much faster.
Fact: Better by Nature
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