20 Things You Didn't Know About... Mosquitoes

They use the signature buzz as a mating call.

By Dean Christopher|Monday, July 23, 2007

The world’s largest statue of a mosquito is a roadside attraction in Komarno, Manitoba, the Mosquito Capital of Canada. (“Komarno” is Ukrainian for “mosquito.” What’s up with that?) Sculpted in 1984, it is made of steel and has a wingspan of 15 feet. It’s also a weathervane, swiveling in the wind.

2  There are more than 2,500 varieties of mosquito (some entomologists claim 3,000) whining from the Arctic tundra to the tropical rain forests. Most are active at dawn and dusk, while others enjoy midday feeding. Protein is where you find it.

3   In 1998, researchers found a new mosquito species in the London Underground, descended from ancestors that flew in when the tunnels were dug 100 years ago. Once bird-feeders, they now feast on a menu of rats, mice, and people.

4  They rarely interbreed with their aboveground colleagues. Their DNA actually varies from one subway line to another.

Mosquitoes do not bite, they suck.

6  It would take 1,200,000 mosquitoes, each sucking once, to completely drain the average human of blood.

Which seems unlikely, but then again in the Arctic, Canadian researchers who bared their arms, legs, and torsos reported as many as 9,000 bites per minute from swarming, newly hatched mosquitoes. At that rate, an individual could lose half his blood in two hours.

Once a feeding mosquito is full, a chemical signal shuts down the intake. When that signal is disabled in the lab, mosquitoes suck until they explode.

It is hard to get upset about that.

10  According to a University of Bristol study, male mosquito “ears” are packed with about as many sensory cells as human ears, helping amorous mosquito males identify and pursue passing females.

11  When a mosquito detects the whine of the opposite sex, it begins to synchronize its own pitch to match that of the potential mate. Randy males can “relate” to girl frequencies in a second or two. Females take several times longer to synchronize. This is the same with humans in a bar.

12  Mosquitoes can mate in midair, often in as little as 15 seconds from approach to fare-thee-well. There are no known instances of prior cocktails and dinner.

13  Male mosquitoes are actually sensitive vegetarians, living on nectar and plant juices. Only females drink blood, for protein to make eggs.

14  Millions of years ago, mosquitoes were three times as large as they are today.

15  Eyes occupy most of the surface of a mosquito’s head. Not eyes into which one might wish lovingly to peer, these compound-lensed organs deliver infrared images of heat patterns emanating from a body. Like the alien in Predator.

16  Mosquitoes also use your exhaled breath to track you down, especially when you sleep or have been exercising. Fortunately, they clock out at only 1.5 mph—so you can’t hide, but you can run. Unless you’re on a treadmill. Then they’ll get you.

17  Central America’s so-called Mosquito Coast (a thin strip of land along the Caribbean in Honduras and Nicaragua) is not named for the insect, but after a mispronunciation of the indigenous Miskito Indians.

18  Abuja, Nigeria, is home to the world’s biggest mosquito net, unveiled in 2000 as part of a national campaign against malaria and other insect-borne diseases. Two hundred children fit under it.

19  Millions of people alive today will die of a mosquito-transmitted disease. Malaria alone claims some 1,000,000 lives a year in Africa. Other top killers include dengue, yellow fever, and West Nile virus.

20  But they won’t die of AIDS. HIV-infected humans actually have very few virus particles in their bloodstream, and should a mosquito suck one up, it gets killed by the mosquito’s digestive system.

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