As a prime mosquito buffet target, I spend most of the summer scratching my itchy bites. I am not a fan of those annoying pests and would not be sad if they suddenly disappeared from the earth. At dinner the other night we were talking about mosquitos and wondering – What are they good for? Why are they here? Would anything bad happen if they all just disappeared?
Let’s start with the good…
Mosquitos are pollinators.
Not many of them are pollinators but mosquitos are the primary pollinator for blunt-leaved orchids and the endangered monkey-face orchid.
Mosquitos are protectors of the rain forest.
In their own way – biting us, making us sick, and driving us away – mosquitos are protecting nature’s remote outposts from being overrun even more by human invasion.
Mosquitos are a food source for other animals.
Though not a primary source for many creatures, they do serve a role in the food chain. I may not like mosquitos, but I do like birds, dragonflies, and fish.
Now the bad…
Mosquitos carry disease.
The US CDC estimates that one million people per year are killed by malaria alone. Other major diseases carried by mosquitos that infect humans are Zika virus, West Nile virus, Dengue fever, Yellow fever, and Chikungunya fever. As the climate changes, these virus are spreading even farther and faster.
From the perspective of disease transmission, the eradication of mosquitoes would have massive positive consequences for global health. From an ecological perspective, the eradication of mosquitos would have the consequence of more people living, creating a world-wide population increase.
Mosquito bites are itchy!
There have been studies to find out why different people seem to be mosquito magnets. I am, unfortunately, most definitely very tasty as far as the mosquitos are concerned. My bites itch for days! Here’s a video showing how a mosquito bites us. Warning – very close-up and kind of gross. I was watching between my fingers and making faces the whole time. And yet, I couldn’t look away. What can I say – curiosity can be a curse sometimes.
Is it time to say good-bye to the mosquitos?
There is really no way to know how the world would change with the eradication of mosquitos. As much as I hate the little blood-suckers, I am hesitant to advocate for their extinction. In my opinion, humans should be trying to have less effect on the natural world not more. Nature is an immensely complicated and intertwined system. Seemingly small innocuous actions can create a ripple effect around the world.
What if we killed all the mosquitos?
A little mosquito humor…
One of my favorite lines from the movie, Lilo and Stitch, is when Pleakley tells his boss that they have been using Earth as a mosquito refuge area.
Earth is a protected wildlife refuge. See, we’re using it to replenish the mosquito population, which I remind you is an endangered species.
Then later in the movie, Pleakley meets some mosquitos. So funny!
World Mosquito Day
I bet you didn’t know that was a thing, did you? I sure didn’t! But don’t worry – we’re not celebrating the mosquitos (thank goodness!). We’re celebrating Sir Ronald Ross.
World Mosquito Day – celebrated on August 20th each year – was established in 1897 when Sir Ross made a huge discovery—he found a malaria parasite inside a mosquito. Until then, there was only a hypothetical connection between mosquitos and malaria. Ross’s discovery helped doctors and scientists realize that female Anopheles mosquitoes could spread the disease—and that people could prevent it by protecting their skin from the insects’ bites.
Ross’s work was honored with a Nobel Prize in 1902. Modern day remembrances include:
- The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine celebrates World Mosquito Day with exhibitions and parties designed both to entertain and to inform. (In 2017 they created this video timeline – 120 years of Fighting Malaria.)
- Nothing But Nets is a UN action to bring mosquito nets to people in need.
- Malaria No More is another foundation fighting malaria around the world.
Once we learned what was causing the malaria and how to prevent it, people started using mosquito nets to protect themselves. Check out the National Geographic vintage photos of old-school mosquito nets.
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World Mosquito Day is just one of many interesting days celebrated in August. Sign up for email newsletter updates to see the latest happenings here.
More August Days of Celebration…
August 1 – World Scout Scarf Day
August 26 – Dog Day
I have several posts featuring dogs:
August 30 – Pony Express Day