Interesting Mosquito Facts
Mosquitoes are pesky little insects that no one likes. However, could they be playing a role that we are unaware of?
All creatures, big or small, have a role to play. Each organism works at balancing the food pyramid and several other factors that affect our ecosystem. Similarly, a mosquito has its own functions. Let us discover whether these outweigh the trouble they bring and also several other interesting details about them.
Role of Mosquitoes in the Ecosystem
Everyone recognizes mosquitoes as tiny flying creatures who bite humans in order to suck their blood and enjoy a delicious meal. Mosquito bites kill one million people annually at an average and several other animals as well.
They are also capable of transferring dangerous diseases to them. However, apart from these, do mosquitoes have a purpose? Let’s try to figure out why they exist and if they form an important part of the ecosystem.
You may wonder what purpose could a mosquito have in life? These creatures do have a few benefits but these are outweighed by their negative impact. These benefits have been listed below:
#1. Mosquitoes Are Part of the Food Chain
Many creatures feed on mosquitoes who are considered fairly unique for starting as larvae and ending up as insects with wings. Mosquitoes as larvae are important because during this stage they feed on algae that consists of tons of nutrients. These nutrients later form a tissue in the mosquito, thus forming a nutritious meal for those who feed on it.
Creatures such as birds and fish usually consume mosquitoes. Not only these but lizards, frogs, spiders, etc feed on mosquitoes. In regions like the Arctic Tundra, mosquitoes are known to form dense clouds which allow birds to eat them with great ease.
There are also a few species which only survive on mosquitoes (like the gambusia). If mosquitoes didn’t exist, these species would not be able to sustain themselves in the ecosystem.
Nevertheless, mosquitoes aren’t the only creatures who use wetland waste to create nutrients and can be successfully replaced with other water-dwelling insects and larvae.
#2. Mosquitoes Help in the Process of Pollination
Mosquitoes also facilitate carrying out pollination of many kinds of flowers. The primary source of food of a mosquito happens to be the nectar contained by flowers and other plants as well.
Male mosquitoes only sustain their lives only by consuming nectar while female mosquitoes consume blood as well in order to continue the process of breeding.
But blood is not sufficient for females to survive. They require nectar to energize themselves. This process leads to pollination which is the transfer of pollen grains to the ovule, stigma or flower.
Without mosquitoes, the process of pollination may become slower and remaining insects may not be enough to carry out the required levels of pollination.
Do Mosquitoes Serve Any Purpose?
The effects of eradicating mosquitoes are unknown and even though there are substitutes for the few functions they perform, it is not certain whether their removal may cause an imbalance in the ecosystem.
This is because mosquitoes pass on several contagious diseases and without them, there would be a significant fall in the deaths every year leading to a higher population. Countries struggling with ever-growing population masses won’t be able to adjust to this change.
Thus, mosquitoes do not serve any purpose but their existence is important.
The Four Stages in the Life Cycle of Mosquitoes
A mosquito is destined to go through four different stages during its lifetime and each of these can be easily identified by its appearance.
The first stage of their life cycle is when mosquitoes are in the form of eggs. These eggs may be laid individually or together forming rafts.
The eggs are known to float on top of the water which is why breeding of mosquitoes usually takes place in stagnant water.
In order for a female to lay eggs, she needs to feed on blood. Eggs take nearly 24 to 48 hours to hatch and release larvae.
During the second stage, eggs hatch into larvae who stay in the water and the only surface to breathe.
Larvae are known to shed skin (called molt) four times. Each time they do so, they emerge larger.
The main source of food of larvae are microorganisms and also organic matter present in water.
Usually, mosquitoes spend 7 days as larvae but this completely depends on factors like food and temperature conditions.
After a week or 10 days of hatching of eggs, the larvae transform into what are called pupae.
This is the stage where they are capable of breathing oxygen as well as being the last stage they spend in the water.
This stage is considered a resting period for them. However, they become mobile and slight changes begin occurring within them. This stage lasts for one or two days only.
The adult lies on the surface of the water in order to harden its body parts and dry itself.
It takes another couple of days before they begin mating during which female mosquitoes lay several eggs.
What Constitutes A Mosquito’s Meal and What Are Its Sources?
All mosquitoes survive on nectar derived from flowers and other plants which is enough for them to survive. However, female mosquitoes also need to lay eggs. This requires protein which they obtain by feeding on blood from different animals.
There are several sources of blood like humans, mammals, reptiles etc but mosquitoes usually have preferences which lead to a difference in their place of habitation.
Some species of female mosquitoes also hibernate during winter and to survive they eat extra sugars so that they don’t have to eat again until fall. As larvae, they feed on microorganisms and algae as well.
The Lifespan of A Mosquito
Mosquitoes have a very short lifespan. The female mosquito lives for about 42-56 days while a male mosquito lives only for 10 days. After mating, a male mosquito lives for 3 to 5 days or more if he is not eaten or killed.
Even though females live a longer life than their male counterparts, their lives depend heavily on conditions like warmth and moisture of the environment.
Their lifespan also depends on which species of mosquitoes they belong to. Some of them are fit only for summer and die during winters while other hibernate during this time. Predators and humans have considerably reduced the lifespan of mosquitoes.
Three of the Most Deadly Diseases Spread by Mosquitoes
Mosquitoes are known to carry deadly diseases and therefore are considered few of the most dangerous creatures on this planet. Some of the well-known diseases spread by mosquitoes are:
In 2016, Zika Virus had spread to almost all countries of America leading the World Health Organization to call it a health emergency. Zika Virus causes a defect during the birth of a child called microcephaly. This is a very rare neurological disorder that causes children to be born with tiny heads and other issues.
The Zika Virus is carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito species. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine or treatment for this virus and the only solution to this disease is to avoid mosquito bites. The symptoms are mild and may include rashes, slight fever, joint pain etc.
This disease is caused by parasites which are picked up by the female Anopheles mosquito by feeding on infected people. It takes 10 to 18 days for the parasite to develop in the mosquito’s body and then passes on to people due to the exchange of saliva while feeding.
These parasites multiply in the liver causing blood cells to be damaged. This is followed by symptoms like shivering, fever, sweating and other symptoms similar to flu.
The dengue fever is similar to the West Nile virus and is spread by the Aedes mosquito. It takes a week for the mosquito to spread the disease to others. Each year 100 million people are infected by dengue mostly in the tropical western hemisphere and Africa.***