Hearing the buzz of a mosquito’s wings means little more than grabbing a can of bug spray in the U.S., but the sound of these blood-suckers frightens millions of people around the world. In some countries, mosquitoes carry the malaria parasite and infect the people they bite with a deadly fever. More than 300 million humans catch malaria every year and about 3 million of them die.
They Suck: Mosquitoes suck their victims’ blood through a hollow, needle-like tube called a proboscis (nose). As the insect feeds, the blood is sent to its abdomen, which swells and becomes bright red.
Full Immunity:In the early 1950s, the chemical DDT was used to fight malarial mosquitoes. Many of the insects were killed, but some became immune to the insecticide. The survivors passed this immunity onto subsequent generations.
A female malarial mosquito picks up the malaria bug when it bites an infected victim. The malaria parasite then breeds inside the mosquito’s abdomen and spreads to its saliva glands. Every time the mosquito sucks blood (left), it drips saliva into the victim - and the malaria parasite along with it, causing fevers and sometimes death. Unaffected by the disease, the mosquito flies away and infects more people until it gets smacked.
The New Breed: Scientists are trying to create a genetically-altered mosquito that is incapable of carrying the malaria parasite. They hope to introduce this new version into the wild so it will breed with malarial mosquitoes and pass on the modified DNA.
Feel the Heat: A mosquito’s complex eyes can see in infrared, which means the bugs can “see” heat coming from a human’s body. Mosquitoes are attracted to the warmest people in an area.
- The female mosquito lays her eggs on the surface of a body of water, such as a pond or even a puddle, forming them into a circular-shaped raft that floats until the larvae begin to emerge.
- The newly hatched larva stays below the surface but breathes through an air tube located at the base of its tail.
- After a few days the larva is fully developed and exits the water. If the mosquito is female, it’s off to find blood as soon as its wings dry.