Ah, fall. One of my absolute favorite times of year. The leaves changing color, the cooling weather, and the anticipation of another year of school get me excited. The thing I love most of all, though, is this: the mosquitoes go away.
I think one thing almost everyone can agree on is hating mosquitoes. Other than serving as food for birds, bats, and bigger insects, they don’t do much else than annoy us to death. Every spring, I wait in dread of the day they return, once again, to constantly hover around my body until I have more red bumps than a kid with a severe case of acne.
And another thing. I’ve often asked myself: why do I have a hundred mosquitoes buzzing around my entire body while the guy next to me is skeeter-free? I’ve always been puzzled and slightly irked by this. There has to be some reason why I and other people are mosquito magnets and everyone else seems to have built-in bug spray. As it turns out, a certain chemical that gives off a specific scent is how mosquitoes know you’re not only fit for biting, but will also make a scrumptious treat, so even if someone is closer to mosquitoes than you, they may go for you instead just because you smell good. Must be a compliment.
Know what else annoys me? How easy it is for them to find me. When I’m outside, one minute I’m mosquito-free, the next I couldn’t be further from that. Surely they can’t see with their eyes like people do; they’re insects, so they have compound eyes that don’t function like human eyes very much at all.
Apparently, mosquitoes have extremely sensitive smell, and carbon dioxide is the signal that tips off when a human is nearby. Even if you’re up to fifty meters away, they’ll scent a continuous flow of carbon dioxide coming from you and fly in for the bite. It’s a lot more complex than you may think.
Not only are they annoying, but they can be dangerous too. Sometimes mosquitoes, especially smaller ones, carry severe diseases like malaria, West Nile, yellow fever, and the dengue virus, which can make people deathly ill. I’ve always wondered just how the little guys carry and spread these diseases, and why there outbreaks in places like Africa, Asia, and South America, but not in places like North Dakota. I also wondered why one outbreak would happen on one side of the world and a second one nowhere near the first one. It’s odd, isn’t it?
I found out that both climate and population characteristics are a big factor; most places where breakouts happen are hotter and more densely populated with people than North Dakota, and those two things together will almost always lower the sanitation level as well.
So, as you can see, as much as you may hate the winged bloodsuckers that seem to be everywhere, you have to admit that they’re pretty cool.
Some questions to conclude:
Why do some people get swarmed by mosquitoes, while other people are left alone entirely?
How do you think mosquitoes carry and transmit diseases?
Why would carbon dioxide be a great indicator that a human is nearby?