Their itchy, irritating bites and nearly ubiquitous presence can ruin a backyard barbecue or a hike in the woods.
Beyond the nuisance factor, mosquitoes are carriers, or vectors, for some of humanity’s most deadly illnesses, and they are public enemy number one in the fight against global infectious disease. Mosquito-borne diseases cause millions of deaths worldwide every year with a disproportionate effect on children and the elderly in developing countries.
Mosquitoes transmit disease in a variety of ways. In the case of malaria, parasites attach themselves to the gut of a female mosquito and enter a host as she feeds. In other cases, such as yellow fever and dengue, a virus enters the mosquito as it feeds on an infected human and is transmitted via the mosquito’s saliva to a subsequent victim.
All mosquitoes need water to breed, so eradication and population-control efforts usually involve removal or treatment of standing water sources. Insecticide spraying to kill adult mosquitoes is also widespread. However, global efforts to stop the spread of mosquitoes are having little effect, and many scientists think global warming will likely increase their number and range.
There are more than 3,000 species of mosquitoes
Mosquitoes use exhaled carbon dioxide, body odors and temperature, and movement to home in on their victims.
A mosquito can drink up to three times its weight in blood
Only female mosquitoes have the mouth parts necessary for sucking blood.