An attempt to answer the age-old question, “Why do mosquitoes even exist?”
There are over 3,000 species of mosquitoes on earth, and only a few hundred of these actually bite humans. And still, nobody likes mosquitoes. They’re annoying, they’re creepy, and they’re best known for spreading diseases like malaria, dengue and West Nile virus. So why do they even exist? What good are they? What purpose can they possibly serve?
Believe it or not, there is at least one good reason mosquitoes are here. They serve as a plentiful food source to birds, fish and frogs and other animals that we want and need. In fact, the animals sustained by mosquitoes and their larvae become part of the greater food chain that helps all animals – including humans – grow and thrive in a changing world.
In the tundra, mosquitoes form large clouds that make them easy prey for birds who may have little else to eat! One entomologist at the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources has estimated that the number of migratory birds that nest in the tundra could drop by more than half without those clouds of mosquitoes. In the same region, those swarms of mosquitoes directly impact the migratory patterns of caribou herds. Aiming to avoid the clouds of biting mosquitoes, the caribou head towards fertile lands where they can survive and contribute appropriately to the ecosystem.
Plants also benefit from mosquitoes. Male mosquitoes, which don’t bite, are pollinators like bees and butterflies, and they live on nectar. There are certain species of orchid for which the mosquito is the only pollinator. Also, some mosquitoes will devour the carcasses of insects that have drowned in bodies of water, and their larvae will feed on the waste products, producing nitrogen and other nutrients that benefit plant life.
Finally, mosquitoes are also benefitting humanity in unexpected ways. Since mosquitoes are able to pierce your skin and drink for at least several seconds without you noticing, there’s obviously some magic that allows them to do this painlessly! Scientists have taken note and are looking to mosquitoes for ideas on how to make injections less uncomfortable:
“Mosquitoes must be doing something right if they can pierce our skin and draw blood without causing pain,” said Bharat Bhushan, Ohio Eminent Scholar and Howard D. Winbigler Professor of mechanical engineering at Ohio State. “We can use what we have learned from mosquitoes as a starting point to create a better microneedle.”
Even if you can never appreciate the small good mosquitoes offer the planet, you have to admire them at least a little. For one thing they’re amazing hunters. They can “smell” the carbon dioxide you exhale from up to 50 metres away! They also have incredible survival skills: they’ve been around since the Jurassic period, so these insects been on our planet for over 210 million years – and we’ve been trying to eradicate them the entire time!
There’s a temptation to want to see every mosquito on the planet extinguished, and it’s easy to see why. The truth is, they are the deadliest creatures on earth. According to National Geographic, mosquitoes are “public enemy number one in the fight against global infectious disease. Mosquito-borne diseases cause millions of deaths worldwide every year with a disproportionate effect on children and the elderly in developing countries.”
At the same time, we really can’t eliminate mosquitoes from the planet entirely. They are a part of our ecosystem, like it or not. Even if we can’t see the purpose they serve or any tangible benefit to their existence, it’s not really all about us, is it? Next time you’re covering yourself with DEET before an outing, consider the birds, caribou and orchids that thrive with thanks to the pesky mosquito!
To keep mosquitoes at bay in your yard – without damaging the ecosystem – contact Repel today to learn more about our eco-friendly mosquito sprays!
Also, read tips on staying safe from mosquitoes on the Connecticut Green blog!