Mosquitos: Deadly or Helpful?

A few days back, I was looking through my family’s photo album of our 2010 trip to India. Alongside, the vivid memories of visiting my extended family and the bumbling city, I remembered how mosquitos were practically everywhere and the amount of itchy mosquito bites I got from my trip. Determined to find out more about mosquitos, I decided to do some research.

Mosquito

Enrique Dans © CC BY-SA 3.0

To start off, mosquitoes (scientifically known as Culicidae) are a carnivorous species of the Invertebrates family that can live anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months. On average, mosquitos can be anywhere from 0.125 to 0.75in. and weigh approximately 0.000088oz (8.8× 10-5 oz, in scientific notation).

For those of you who may not know a lot about the mosquito, you may be wondering how such a small creature could be such an issue for humans and other species. Besides the annoying buzzing and the intense pain that comes with the mosquito’s bloodsucking mechanisms, three of the 3,000 species of mosquitoes are responsible for spreading some of the deadliest human diseases. These include the Anopheles mosquito, which is well-known for transmitting malaria, filariasis and encephalitis, the Culex mosquitoes which are well-known for transmitting encephalitis, filariasis and the West Nile virus, and the Aedes mosquitoes which transmit yellow fever, dengue and encephalitis. Millions of deaths are caused worldwide because of mosquito-borne diseases, with an increased emphasis on children and the elderly in developing nations.

Now you may be wondering, why should we continue to keep these pesky species alive when we know that there is the possibility of saving millions of lives? Recently, scientists are investigating a multitude of ways to eradicate the “mosquito problem”. One of the methodologies includes genetically modifying mosquitos to produce a generation that is predominantly male in hopes of making the species become self-limiting, as these mosquitoes will not be able to reproduce any offspring and sting any human.

Even if scientists did find a successful method in eradicating mosquitos, it would create a disruption in the food chain ecosystem. For instance, in the Artic tundra, where food is very scarce, migratory birds rely on mosquitoes as a food source. With the eradication of mosquitoes, this would have a huge impact on the food chain as it would cause migratory birds to search for another food source. Similarly, it would cause specialized predators like the mosquitofish, as well as the other insects and fish that feed on the mosquitos to diminish in size, thus creating a catastrophic ripple effect in the food chain.

As of current, we are stuck with our “mosquito problem” until we, as scientists and humans can develop a solution that both solves the problem and can maintain the current state of our ecosystem.

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