HealthCommentary

Exploring Human Potential

What’s With The Mosquitos?

Posted on | September 20, 2011 | 1 Comment

Mike Magee

Last week I woke up in the middle of the night itching my arm and my ankles. My first reaction was “I must have gotten into poison something”. But the next morning it was clear – mosquito bites. It turns out other family members in other states were having the same problem, which is unusual this time of year.

The reason? Hurricane Irene which has left us soggy with multiple spots for female mosquitos to lay their eggs.(1,2) Mosquitos can normally hang around in the northeast until October, but the generally dry conditions usually make them a none issue. Not this year.

I was surprised to learn that a coffee cup of water outdoors can yield a bumper crop of mosquitos in a week. How does that happen. Well the female lays the eggs and the eggs proceed rapidly through larva, pupa and adult phases. The original eggs hatch in about 48 hours. The larvae live in the water breathing through surface air tubes and feeding on micro-organisms in the water. They molt into pupae, and after two days, split the skin and emerge as adults.(3)

The female mosquito who began all this needed nourishing blood to develop her eggs. That blood often comes from you and me. We get pierced by the insects who simultaneously inject chemicals in saliva that are anticoagulants which let the blood flow. These substances cause the swelling reaction and the itching.The saliva itself can carry disease causing microbes. The male is innocent – no piercing mouth parts and they feed on nectar, not blood.(3)

There are lots of different varieties, but the ones that got me were probably Culex pipiens – the most common mosquito around the world. And they likely were hatched within 300 feet of where I was biten. (They don’t wander far.) Birthplace? Could have been the birdbath, and old can or cup, the gutter, a puddle, the garbage pail left outdoors. My man made pond? Not likely, I fill them each spring with $.15 cent goldfish and they devour the larvae.(3)

Prevention? Experts say don’t run to insecticides. First, cover up properly in loose fitting clothing. Use insect repellants as directed. And disrupt any potential breeding grounds. That’s on the micro-level. Public Health experts tactics are evolving. Why? As weather shifts, so do life cycles, behaviors, predators, and the effectiveness of control measures. It’s all connected.

For Health Commentary, I’m Mike Magee

References:

1. Next Irene Complication: Mosquitos. Sept. 1, 2011. http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Another-Bite-from-Irene-128872138.html

2. Rose K. Mosquitos Swarm From Breeding Grounds Left By Hurricane Irene. USA Today. Sept. 20, 2011. http://usat.ly/pExA7v

3. Mosquito Brochure. Cornell University. http://www.nysipm.cornell.edu/publications/mosquitobro/files/mosquito.pdf

Comments

One Response to “What’s With The Mosquitos?”

  1. Anne Marie Greer
    September 20th, 2011 @ 11:39 am

    Thanks for the good data! 🙂

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