Nov 10, 2008

Hematophages

Mosquitoes come in all shapes and sizes and species. Not all drink blood. Not even those that do drink blood do so for their own survival. Rather, the female hematophages (blood drinkers) do so to supplement their need for protein and iron in an effort to spawn still more mosquitoes.

Here is one such instance. See her ram her siphon into the human's skin and tank up? All that blood is human blood. It's because of this blood drinking, and the attendant spread of blood-borne pathogens, that mosquitoes are responsible for the death of more humans in world history than any other animal.

Mosquito photos: venwu225




















You can swat 'em. You can fumigate 'em. You can even enlist the help of members of the Toxorhynchites, the largest extant mosquitoes out there. These mosquitoes don't drink blood; they prey on other mosquitoes. But you can always count on spiders. They seem to have the last word in a lot of these discussions.

Spider photo: Brian Valentine
(bye bye, little midge)

11 comments:

Wendy said...

Hubby told me once that if you flexed the muscles of whatever appendage the skeeter was draining (also tightening the skin) the thing would not be able to disengage and would subsequently explode. My DH has been known to pull my leg - anyone know if this is one of those times?

Anonymous said...

The greatest crime in human history is the banning of DDT. After Rachel Carson wrote "Silent Spring", in which she blamed the chemical for a whole host of unconfirmed maladies, she basically set the stage for the grueling deaths of millions of human beings.

Most Americans are unaware that they don't have to face malaria in the US because a DDT project was launched in the 20's and 30's that wiped out most of the malaria carrying mosquitoes. Europe did the same up until the 70's when they declared themselve malaria free. Thanks to the world-wide DDT ban, the African nations will never have that luxury.

Back in the 70's, the EPA went through 9,000 pages of accumulated DDT studies and found that DDT poses not threat to man, animals, fish, birds or other wildlife. They banned it anyway...

A researcher named Dr. William Hazeltine found DDT to protect animals from various cancers, including breast cancer, to the point they nicknamed the chemical "vitamin DDT".

Dr. Gordon Edwards used to lecture on the benefits of DDT for malaria control. At the beginning of each lecture he would down a spoonful of DDT. This caused him to die at the criminally young age of 85 from a heart attack.

The unfounded banning of DDT is a crime against humanity.

LisaL said...

I'm one of the unlucky people who mosquitos just LOVE to suck on which is why my pastey butt stays inside during spring and summer.

Wendy said...

Ooooo-kay, no one mentioned DDT, but FYI, why not read this article by UIU-C's entomology head: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/04/AR2005060400130.html

Victorya said...

they love me. I have gone out with a group of friends and the mosquitoes swarmed ME so bad we had to run out of the park.

They even come into my house at night to feast. The last one that did that, I smashed into the wall and it left a huge blood splatter - of course it was MY blood that splatted, but I left it up as a warning to all other 'squitoes.' I will hunt you down and kill you.

Kit said...

Victorya, I shall join you in your war against the winged leeches. My own sister is the same as you... a 'target' while I get ignored. I will use her as bait, while I use gurellia tactics to exterminate them!

Anonymous said...

"At the same time that malaria deaths were dropping in some places, however, the environmental persistence of DDT was creating major problems for wildlife, as famously documented in Rachel Carson's classic 1962 book, "Silent Spring." By 1972, the pesticide had become the "poster poison" for fat-soluble chemicals that accumulate in food chains and cause extensive collateral damage to wildlife (including charismatic predators such as songbirds and raptors), and a total ban on the use of DDT went into effect in the United States."

Her assertion here is so patently false that it pains me to see an "esteemed" scientist still mouthing these myths. But I guess if you want to get published in the Washington Post, you have to tow the party line.

For an alternate view, read the critique of Carson and Silent Spring by "J. Gordon Edwards, professor of entomology at San Jose State University in California who has taught biology and entomology there for 43 years. He is a long-time member of the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society and is a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences."

http://www.21stcenturysciencetech.com/articles/summ02/Carson.html

Anonymous said...

Amen, Anonymous.

This was my favorite part of the WP article:

"Overselling a chemical's capacity to solve a problem can do irretrievable harm not only by raising false hopes but by delaying the use of more effective long-term methods. So let's drop the hyperbole and overblown rhetoric -- it's not what Africa needs. What's needed is a recognition of the problem's complexity and a willingness to use every available weapon to fight disease in an informed and rational way."

The question is--What are the other available weapons? If you've got one, let's use it. But let's not sacrifice one more drop of precious human blood for "in case."
We all love animals, especially the overloadedly ugly ones, but people are far more important.

Vanessa said...

Go spidey! We need more spiders, they definitely don't cause cancer.

Jack Ruttan said...

On another tack, the Canadian Radio science show did a squinchy item on blood-drinking creatures in general, featuring a scientist who's written a book about them.

I think the worst was the Candiru fish in the Amazon. Hope I'm spelling that right so people can do a Google, but I'm not going to describe its habits here!

Jack Ruttan said...

Oops. Name of show: "Quirks and Quarks." They have a podcast.