by Karen Marquardt
Everyone knows what a mosquito looks like, and most of us are all too familiar with what a mosquito bite feels like, but beyond that most people don’t really know much about these fascinating insects. Read on for some interesting facts that you can use to amaze your friends at your next outdoor party.
- Mosquitoes are not all the same. In fact, there are over 3000 species of mosquito worldwide, and about 85 species in Texas. Mosquitoes are found on every continent except Antarctica, and in every ecosystem from desert to jungle.
- Only the female mosquito needs to have a “blood meal," which means that only the female is a problem for humans. The male mosquito spends his life eating (mostly nectar from flowers), and mating.
- The eggs of some mosquito species can be completely desiccated, or dried out, for up to six years and still hatch successfully when exposed to water. For these floodwater species, having the egg completely dry out is a critical part of the life cycle.
- A female mosquito can detect carbon dioxide from up to 75 feet away. She senses the plume of exhaled carbon dioxide given off by her prey, then homes in using a variety of other mechanisms.
- Not all mosquitoes feed on humans, or even on warm blooded animals. Some mosquitoes only feed on reptiles or amphibians.
- That annoying high-pitched whine that you hear when a mosquito gets near your ear is caused by the mosquito’s wing beats. Some species beat their wings as fast as 600 times per second. Some mosquitoes even synchronize their wing beats with each other to check for compatibility before mating.
- Some people really are mosquito magnets. A human being’s chemical signature is made up of around 200 chemicals, and the signature of each person is unique. We do know that mosquitoes tend to prefer women over men, they like floral scents, they are attracted to lactic acid and they like stinky feet. The also target people who have been drinking beer. That just leaves about 195 other factors that might be making you a target. It has been estimated that about one in ten people are mosquito magnets.
- Mosquitoes are considered by many to be the most dangerous animal on the planet, due to the diseases that they can spread. Mosquito-borne illness, mainly malaria, kill about one million people every year.
- Most mosquitoes are not considered strong flyers, achieving maximum velocity of about 1.5 mph. A strong breeze or fan can keep them grounded.
- Scratching mosquito bites actually does make them itch worse. The swelling at the site of the bite, often called a welt, is the body’s reaction to an anti-coagulant in mosquito saliva. Scratching the itch stimulates the body’s immune response and makes it itch more.
- All mosquitoes need water to complete their life cycle, but they don’t need much. A tablespoon of water may be enough to breed hundreds of mosquitoes.
- Mosquito swarms in the arctic actually change caribou migration and movement.
- Mosquitoes have existed longer than people. Evidence shows that they have been around at least 100 million years!