Facts about Mosquitoes, the scourge of our planet
The mosquito, vector of Dengue Fever, Malaria and Yellow Fever, and general scourge of the planet is one of the earth's original species, having been around for 150 million years.
The word mosquito comes from the Spanish meaning little fly.
There are over 3,500 species worldwide, ranging from the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere down to the tropics.
Active all year round in the sub tropical and tropical regions of the world, the mosquito hibernates over winter in the cooler regions.
The mosquito is most prevelant near water and most active during the cooler hours of the evening and nightime.
The mosquito typically feeds on the nectar of plants, but the female needs an iron and protein rich meal in order to produce her eggs.
This is achieved by piercing the skin of host animals with her needle like mouthpart, and extracting blood.( Hematophagy )
During the extraction her saliva produces anti- bodies and antigens, which in turn can cause immediate or delayed hypersensitivity to the host.
The female mosquito has a highly efficient sense of smell, with 72 odour receptors, 27 of which are tuned into human sweat.
Nonanal is a fruity or sweet smelling chemical found in human sweat that attracts the mosquito to human beings.
Nonanal is produced by us all, and has nothing to do with whether we eat lots of sweets or drink beer or wine, as some urban myths suggest, it is simply that some of us produce the smell of nonanal more highly than others, which gives rise to the other urban myth, that mosquitos only attack certain people.
The mosquito in fact has a go at us all if she can, but will invariably go to those of us that smell more highly of nonanal first.
Another reason urban myths suggest mosquitoes are choosy in their host meal, is that some of us react to her bite and others do not.
This is becouse when her anti - bodies and antigens rich saliva enters our system, it can produce an immediate hypersensitivity that our immune system cannot cope with in some, but not in others.
MOSQUITO BORNE DISEASES.
Because of this modus operandi of blood feeding the mosquito is the vector of some of the world's deadliest infectious diseases.
The most prevalent of these diseases is Malaria, tranmitted by the genus Anopheles, which occurs in Africa, Asia,and central and south America.
Three million people a year are affected by Malaria, particularly children of sub Saharan Africa, where the disease causes at least two million deaths.
The genus Aedes Aegypyi transmits the diseases of Dengue and Yellow Fever in Africa and central and south America, causing another two million deaths a year.
Even the mosquito that transmits no disease can still be the harbinger of skin infections and scarring, due to the inflamed and irritating pustules that mosquito saliva causes on the skin of those of us more hypersensitive to her bite.
NB. The mosquito does NOT transmit HIV.
The world's malarial regions.
Eradication of the mosquito is paramount to the health of the world's people.
All over the world one can witness different ways of dealing with mosquitoes, from the highly technical ( by use of chemical sprays ) to the highly rediculous (one method I witnessed myself whilst living in Turkey, was to send a lorry full of burning tar out on the streets at night, which emitted the most pungent and acrid smoke ) .
But scientists have hit upon eradication today, by means of using mosquito predators to help us in our quest to be rid of the life threatening pest.
The mosquito has only one known predator, the Dragonfly, which is today being cultivated in large numbers in order to bring down the mosquito population.
As the mosquito typically lays her eggs in and around stagnant water supplies, the World Health Organisation is setting up large stagnant water cleaning programmes, in order to take away their breeding haunts.
In areas where there is no stagnant water, the female mosquito will lay her eggs near any still water supply,thus encouraging local residents to fill up ponds and lakes with mosquito larvae eating fish, of which there are around 20 species.
MOSQUITO BITE REMEDIES.
Before travelling to Malarial or Dengue and Yellow Fever areas of the world, do make sure to have the appropriate vaccines before you travel.
For areas where the mosquito is just a general nuisance, anti- histamines and corticosteroids can be given in sever cases.
For minor mosquito bites, vinegar, calamine lotion and aloe vera gel are cheap and effective ways of relieving the awful rash the lady parasite leaves us to cope with.
There are several proprietry skin lotions and sprays one can buy for use on the skin when we are out at nightime, and there are several effective electric mosquito repellents one can buy for use in the bedroom.
Remember the mosquito is most prevelant at night, so always cover the body when out, and use netting up at open windows and over beds, to keep them away from your body.
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Images courtesy of wikimedia commons.