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Interview With A Mosquito - The Lowdown On Their Life!

August 01, 2016

The Lowdown On The Life Of A Mosquito from The Solid Bar Company

So Mr Mosquito, for our readers could you describe yourself?  Well, I'm a flying insect that can grow up to 1 to 2cms in length.  I think I'm amazing, but most humans consider me a right royal pain in the proverbial, so much so that they sometimes call me a skeeter, a bloodsucker or a stinger, not very nice huh?

Mosquito Size Comparison

How many of you are there?  As a family we have over 3,000 different species of our mosquito family throughout the world.  Currently 176 of these species are recognized in the United States.

A swarm of mosquitoes - The Solid Bar Company

How long do you live?  Depending on which particular species, and of course the local environment, our complete life cycle - egg to larva to pupa, and finally to the adult stage - can take anywhere from 4 to 30 days.  The eggs are usually laid at night in batches of between 100 and 300.  Much like our smaller 'annoying relative' the no-see-um, we like to lay our eggs on or near the surface of any available sheltered fresh or stagnant water, whether it be a marsh, a ditch, a swimming pool or even in an old discarded tin can.

Aedes aegypti mosquito life cycle - The Solid bar Company

What do you feed on?  OK, for this one you'd better make yourself comfortable, 'cause this is where things can get a little tricky.  Most people think in terms of carnivore, herbivore and even omnivore.  Me, I was born to be different.  

During my early stage, that's the larva to you, I had to eat algae, all sorts of waste material and I have to admit even other mosquito larvae, so that kind of makes me a bit of everything.  Now that I'm an adult, and of course a male mosquito, I tend to feed on sugar sources such as rotting fruit or plant nectar.  

My good lady, on the other hand, has a tendency to bite  you guys, you know - mammals/humans - but then only for the same reason that the no-see-ums do, to get the protein in blood to grow her healthy eggs.  Whilst it may not seem it to you, humans are by far the second choice blood source; we much prefer to feed from other mammals such as cattle and horses or smaller animals and birds if they're around! 

Mosquito Feeding On Nectar - The Solid Bar Company

Do you transmit diseases in the U.S.A.?  Unlike the no-see-um, this answer is an emphatic yes.  Of the 3000 species, our prime carriers are the Culex mosquitoes which carry Encephalitis, Filariasis and West Nile virus with the Aedes mosquitoes (of which I am one) primarily known for carrying Yellow Fever, Dengue, Encephalitis and now Zika.

You will no doubt have heard of other mosquito-related cases of disease also identified in the U.S. such as Malaria, Chikungunya, Dog Heartworm, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, St. Louis Encephalitis, LaCrosse Encephalitis, and Western Equine Encephalitis.  From this list it is only malaria and yellow fever that  you humans have managed to effectively control within the U.S. from the late 1940's; there have been occasional outbreaks of malaria since, from causes such as returning troops (bitten by my cousins overseas), but they have been rapidly dealt with.

The rest of the diseases on this list have been identified in varying numbers in many States of the U.S., some primarily in travel-related cases.  West Nile virus (WNV) 'arrived' in the U.S. in 1999, with occurrences now being relatively widespread; your CDC (the U.S. Government Center for Disease Control and Prevention) estimates that there have been over 1.5 million WNV related infections in the last two years.  Sadly for you, many cases remaining unreported due to the similarity of the symptoms to other viruses.

Mosquito related diseases - The Solid Bar Company

Probably the virus of most concern today, and one that we are the primary vector (transmitter) of, is the Zika virus.  It is known to have been first discovered in Uganda in 1947, but today cases have been found in 35 countries in the Americas, with over 1,657 reported travel-related cases of Zika in the U.S.

In U.S. Territories to date (1st August 2016), there have been 4,729 reported cases.  In the Caribbean, a total of 4,666 cases have been reported in Puerto Rico, 42 in American Samoa and 26 in the US Virgin Islands.  As of today there have been 50 diagnosed as having the Zika virus in New Jersey alone.

The CDC have released warnings for the Wynwood area of Miami-Dade County area Florida, indicating that the Florida Department of Health having identified the neighborhood as a source of mosquitoes currently spreading the Zika virus; 14 cases have been positively identified but t he true number of cases is likely "many times" that number.  They recommend that p regnant women should not travel to this area.  

It is usually transmitted after a bite from an infected Aedes agypti or Aedes albopictus mosquito.  It is also now believed that there are other methods of transmission such as through unprotected sex with an infected individual.  The resulting illness is usually quite mild, with fever, rash, conjunctivitis and joint pain lasting a few days to several weeks or even months.  Furthermore, extreme complications that can lead to death are now linked with this virus: congenital defect of cranium and brain size in newborns (microcephaly) and Guillain-Barré syndrome (an autoimmune condition).

So, finally, what are the best ways to keep you away from humans?  

  • Firstly you should try eliminating our breeding ground in your immediate environment (by removing all sources of standing water).  This is a great preventative measure often overlooked prior to applying/using repellents or other means.  Obviously, if you are in marsh, swamp or a coastal area then this is a somewhat redundant activity as we are going to be there whatever!
  • Next, why not cover up!  Cover up completely and/or employ the use of a mosquito bed net. 
  • Sometimes you overlook the obvious, so this next option is well worth exploring.  Invest in a 'strong' wind fan and position it to blow across where you are; this will have two immediate benefits.  
    • Firstly, as my female mosquito relatives come in to land on you, in their quest for protein, she uses your exhaled carbon dioxide, body odors, body temperature and movement to home in on you her victim.  Most of these factors will therefore, quite literally, be blown away in the breeze! 
    • Secondly, our average attained flight speed is around 1.2 m/s (or 2.7 mph), although some of my North American relative species have been recorded at 2.5 m/s (or 5.6 mph), so the use of a strong wind fan will greatly disrupt our flight ability in your direction and thus leave you relatively unbothered.
  • The next to try would be repellents. There are three main categories available:
    • synthetic chemicals (DEET, picaridin),
    • botanically derived products (e.g. Eucalyptus, Citronella, Melaleuca) 
    • wearable devices (e.g. wrist-bands and patches).  

The choice is yours, depending on your particular preferences you can try each and see which one works best for you in your particular environment.

 

Of course you may wish to be kind to yourself and the planet so why not  try this Awesome Natural Repellent from The Solid Bar Company , which come highly recommended and contain CDC-Approved Menthoglycol (PMD), Lemongrass, Neem, Peppermint, Lavender, Castor, Catnip, Yarrow and Cedarwood; that's NINE proven awesome natural bug repellents!

We hope this has been of help.

Best of luck from,

The Solid Bar Company Team


References:

  1. CDC Mosquito Control Information
  2. American Mosquito Control Information
  3. World Health Organization - Zika Facts
  4. New Jersey Grant $500,000 To Local Mosquito Control
  5. National Geographic - Mosquito Facts

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