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Don’t swat that mozzie!

August 9, 2021

Through open doors mozzies will zoom in
Attracted by odour of human
Whether O, A or B
She drinks blood like tea
It helps produce eggs, I’m assumin’

I have mixed feelings about mosquitoes. I know they are vectors of some terrible diseases and responsible for about 700,000 deaths a year. I know they are very irritating when they sneak in to bite my ankle in the dark.

But that’s not all mosquitoes – not even a majority. As a group, mosquitoes are primarily sap feeders. Both male (they’re the ones with feathery antenna and no biting mechanism) and female mosquitoes land on grass stems or leaves and suck sap.

In their favour, they provide a bulk snack food for bats – though one moth provides more nourishment than many mozzies. They are believed to help pollinate some plants, though Australian evidence is not definite on this point. They are certainly eaten, both in the larval and adult stages, by many wetlands creatures. Dr Cameron Webb of Sydney Uni says they have been unable to find any plant or animal completely dependent on mosquitoes but they are a sign of a flourishing wetland ecology.

The female only needs one feed of blood in order to be fertile.
The eggs are laid on water (typically, not always) where they hatch into a ‘wriggler’. They go through a few growth phases as they eat algae and microbes in the water. The pupal stage is less active. They are the bigger ones in the photo. They are curled up like a comma and swim down to the bottom if movement is detected above.

Without leaving the water, the adult emerges from the pupa supported on the meniscus of the water. It flies away and mating often happens within a few hours. The males fly together in complex dances in a swarm, and the female bustles into the middle looking for a mate. It’s like a night-club!

She needs the blood for the extra protein to form eggs. It’s unfortunate for us that in obtaining that tiny few drops of blood, they leave a great itch and sometimes leave viruses like the Ross River fever virus or Murray River Encephalitis, or much worse things in tropical areas.

Mosquitoes are consequently very hard to live with but I doubt whether our ecosystems could exist without them.

Pupa centre, larva on right

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I used to scoop the wrigglers out of this backyard pond with a sieve, but for now I’m letting them live. They might attract more frogs, bats, dragonflies, and birds.

I don’t want those bad disease-bearing mosquitoes to give all mosquitoes a bad name. I’m going to give these guys one more chance.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Susan permalink
    August 9, 2021 7:20 pm

    Mmm… Geoff, do you have a recipe for getting ride of the itch!

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