Sat, 23 Feb 2013 19:19:32 EST
Despite its diminutive size, nothing has made an impact on the world like the mosquito, and it’s been here awhile. The oldest known form of the mosquito we know today was discovered in Canadian amber and determined to be 79 million years old. Other forms of it date back much farther than that. Entailing 3500 species, mosquitoes can be found from dense tropical jungles to as far north as the Artic, because mosquito eggs can also tolerate snow and sub-zero temperatures.
No matter how much we dislike them, mosquitoes do have a purpose, enough so that some scientists believe that total eradication of mosquitoes would cause serious consequences for any ecosystem. Both male and female mosquitoes primarily feed on nectar and plant juices, so it is apparent that they are important to the pollination and propagation of certain plant species. I know all of the wild flowers and blueberries I saw while on a caribou hunt in the Artic were probably pollinated by mosquitoes, because there were not any bees around (I’ve also never encountered such large and hungry mosquitoes like I have in the Artic - enough so they’d be a health risk due to blood loss if proper precautions weren’t taken).
The culprit to all this is the female mosquito, that requires a blood meal to provide the necessary proteins required to produce eggs and the female’s flexible abdomen can actually fill up with three times her body weight in blood. The female transmits saliva when she bites to stop blood coagulation while she draws out her blood meal, and the saliva is what can carry disease. The presence of the anti-coagulating saliva causes our immune system to step in and this is why mosquito bites itch.
The mosquito’s impact on the world can easily be described as phenomenal, especially when you realize the havoc the diseases it has passed on through the bite of the female in the quest for the necessary blood meal. The fact is the mosquito all by itself has caused more deaths for mankind down through time than all the wars and plagues combined. Even Attila the Hun during his quest to conquer the then known world was brought to a screeching halt when the mighty mosquito flexed its miniscule muscles. When his huge army experienced dramatic losses due to mosquito borne diseases, Attila had to return home and regroup. (During the early settlement period in Michigan, a fort in the Saginaw Valley had to be abandoned due to a majority of soldiers being struck down by malaria).
Any military action taking place had to take the mosquito into serious consideration and this was no more apparent than in the Pacific theater during World War II where both the Allies and the Japanese had to take special steps in mosquito eradication and disease prevention because there could be more casualties caused by mosquitoes than by battle.
Although mosquito borne diseases such as malaria are practically a thing of the past here in America, third world countries are still experiencing a steady onslaught. Millions of people are still affected annually in Africa alone.
Being in the outdoors a lot, I have my share of mosquito bites every year, from spring right into fall, and this is despite taking precautions such as using repellents. Through experience I’ve discovered that I just seem to attract mosquitoes and often more so than other people in my presence. This isn’t an unusual fact because each person has an individual output of carbon dioxide and various chemicals from their skin that will attract mosquitoes and in a female mosquito’s eyes I just obviously seem to be prime cut.
Personally I dislike dousing myself with insect repellents and an item I’ve discovered in recent years that works for me is called ThermaCell, which is an insect repellent dispensing device that can even be worn on a belt (it even comes in “earth” cover-up scents for deer and bear hunters). I first used a ThermaCell a couple of spring turkey seasons ago and bragged it up so much that my wife Ginny absconded with it to work in her flower beds, so I had to go buy another one. It has also proven to be very comforting while fishing, early bowhunting for deer, hunting in a duck blind near a marsh and just for plain relaxing on my deck and not having to swat at biting bugs.
Being a resident of Tuscola County I have always supported the Mosquito Abatement Program, which the county started in 1997. What is surprising to me is the fact that only four counties in Michigan (Saginaw, Bay, Midland and Tuscola) have mosquito abatement programs. To me, every effort should be taken to keep mosquito numbers in check, simply due to the mosquito’s affect on history, past, present and future.
According to Rich Colopy, co-director and biologist for the Tuscola County Mosquito Abatement Program, the world today has become a much smaller place, allowing different mosquito species and diseases to be more readily transported about. A couple of examples of mosquito-related diseases in Michigan are the West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis, something the county mosquito abatement programs keep an eye on (in not only eradication and prevention efforts, but collecting samples for laboratory analysis as well).
I have personally reviewed the Tuscola County Mosquito Abatement Program facility and have witnessed its dedicated employees at work, including in the field, and can readily attest that county taxpayers are getting their money’s worth. It was very comforting to have my yard treated by Mosquito Abatement this summer a couple days before I held a family reunion here (after the treatment I didn’t need my ThermaCell on my deck for quite awhile). I know that my horses, dogs and cats fully appreciated it as well. Living in the woods with ponds close by has its challenges where mosquitoes are concerned, and I truly appreciate the services provided by the Mosquito Abatement Program (the fact that Tuscola County voters strongly supported the Mosquito Abatement Program at the last voting session speaks for itself).
Rich Colopy agrees the mosquito plays an important role in the ecosystem, but knows keeping mosquito numbers down is a plus for humanity in general. He also admits that a total eradication of the mosquito is impractical due to its very tough and durable nature. It is the ultimate survivor.
I know that I have come to accept the mosquito as a part of nature despite its annoying humming and irritating bites. It has been here pretty much from the beginning, and will no doubt be around forever.
It is what it is.
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