A joke that has been going in and out of email boxes includes the question, "Why didnít Noah swat those two mosquitoes when he had the chance?" The answer is, he didnít have the chance. Mosquitoes were not included on the Arkís passenger list because they are part of the evil that was supposed to be washed away. Yes, evil. Mosquitoes are just plain evil.
If you are a kind-hearted individual who believes all life should be preserved, avert your eyes. This is going to get ugly.
There is absolutely no good reason to preserve mosquito life. Even the rightfully hated fire ant does some good by chewing chiggers. But mosquitoes Ė they must die. Not even PETA, those originators of the bee rape theory, would dare champion the mosquito.
The danged pests have been here forever. And to date, they have evolved into 2500 different species across the world. The United States is home to around 200 different kinds of mosquitoes. Almost all of them seem to be able to find their way into my bedroom.
The word "mosquito" comes from the Spanish word "musketas" which translates to the deceptively cute "little fly." They are members of the Diptera order, the true fly family, because they have two wings. Aristotle listed them as "empis" in his "Historia Animalium." In England, they are called "gnats." Germans refer to them as "stechmucken." Donít know the literal translation of that, but stechmucken sounds disgusting enough.
Mosquitoes are classified as pathogen "vector" insects because they donít actually cause diseases. They just transport disease. With over 2 million people dying each year from mosquito-borne diseases, the stechmucken is a gruesome world-wide home delivery system.
One of those diseases, the West Nile Virus, has captured our attention in recent years because of its rapid spread across the continent. First defined in 1937 in Africa, it was introduced to North America in 1999 in New York and now appears throughout the US, Mexico and, even, Canada.
But WNV is not the only pestilence brought to us by these nasty gnats. Mosquitoes carry malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever ("breakbone fever"), and several strains of encephalitis. Malaria was on the decline after WWII, but is now on the rise because the malaria parasites have developed a resistance to chloroquine, a plant derived medicine.
Male mosquitoes do not bite. Only females bite because they need the protein in blood to produce eggs. One species of mosquitoes, only one, doesnít need blood for reproduction. The others will bite anything with corpuscles - birds, humans, and animals, warm or cold blooded, even lawyers and telemarketers - in order to get a blood meal.
They zero in on you, the mosquitoes, not the lawyers, by following your carbon dioxide trail. They can also sense lactic acid up to 100 feet away. Holding your breath isnít going to save you, either, because they also use visual and heat seeking targeting systems. If they can see you move, theyíll get you. Your best bet is to wear clothing that helps you blend into the background.
To DEET or not to DEET is the question. Repellents that contain DEET are the most effective, however, the underlying theory in DEET usage is to repel the mosquito before the DEET repeals your good health. Two good practices are to spray the repellent on your clothes, not your skin, and always to read the label of any mosquito repellent before using it. If you must have a completely non-toxic mosquito repellent, try some of the botanical formulas that appeared on the market a few years ago. Make sure you watch for allergic reactions, however.
Some folks claim that the perfume, derived from oleander, in dryer sheets, will throw the mosquito off your scent. Just tuck a few sheets into your pockets or belt loops and be prepared to do some explaining.
Scientists are working hard to find controls for mosquitoes. Some of the current research involves natural insecticides such as strains of bacillus thuringiensis and the lagenidium giganteum fungus. One of the semifinalists in the 2003 Intel Science Talent Search competition researched how to exterminate these winged fiends. Michael Herbert Nyberg from Old Lyme High School in Connecticut presented, "The Quantification of the Physical Properties Impacting the Effective Implementation of Acoustic Larvicide Systems" as his project. He found a way to kill mosquito larvae using sound waves. His parents must be very proud.
So if mosquitoes are evil Ė and they are - why were they created in the first place? Perhaps they are here just to remind us that there really is such a thing as evil. And if we do not actively combat it when we can, it will overcome us.
Visitors to the Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve almost always come back to civilization with the same amazing story. They tell of their astonishment at seeing what they previously thought impossible: swarms of tiny mosquitoes bringing down the largest animal in the ANWR, the moose.
It is a cautionary tale.