The mosquito. Severely underestimated, these deadly insects kill approximately 725,000 people annually (worldwide), which is about the population of Seattle, Washington.
Only female mosquitoes bite because they require blood to mature their eggs. Males, and sometimes females, feed on plant juices, such as nectar. A female mosquito can consume enough blood to equal three times its weight.
The process mosquitoes (females) use to extract blood is one out of a nightmare, and more complex than one may think. A long tube called a proboscis extends from the mouth. The tube is actually a sheath protecting six needles.
Two needles with small teeth saw open the flesh. Another pair of needles hold open the cut tissue. Afterwards, a fifth needle finds and punctures a blood vessel by following chemicals given off by the blood vessel.
The same needle begins to suck blood into the mosquito’s body. The sixth, and final needle injects chemicals into the blood vessel, causing blood to flow more quickly. These chemicals are what cause a bump to protrude from the skin after a bite.
Mosquitoes can carry and transmit life-threatening diseases, such as malaria, West Nile, and yellow fever. There are three main genera (plural for genus) of mosquito responsible for spreading such diseases:
- Anopheles mosquitoes are the only known genus to carry malaria. They can also transmit filariasis and encephalitis.
- Culex mosquitoes can spread filariasis and encephalitis.
- Aedes mosquitoes can carry Zika fever, filariasis, dengue, and encephalitis.
In 2017, the United States had 2,002 mosquito-borne illness cases. Six percent (6%) of said cases resulted in death. West Nile was the most common transmitted disease.
Trying to avoid contact with mosquitoes can seem nearly impossible. Though you may not be able to fend off or escape every encounter, you can take preventative measures to minimize your chances of being bit. I will cover such measures at a later time.
Sources of information: