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Posts tagged ‘Mara Lawniczak’

Blood lust and the mosquito

Today is World Mosquito Day, marking the 1897 discovery by the British doctor, researcher and military officer Sir Ronald Ross that the female Anopheles mosquito spreads malaria. Here our senior press officer Claire Hastings looks at what makes this ‘little fly’ one of the most dangerous organisms that has ever lived.

A drawing of a mosquito with a blood-filled stomach (Wellcome Library, London)

A bellyful of blood (Image credit: Wellcome Library, London)

No one likes mosquitoes. They bite. They’re difficult to swat. To make matters worse, they inevitably appear on the rare pleasant days when we’re trying to enjoy the Great British Summer Time. Luckily, mild to moderate irritation is the worst outcome we can expect from a mosquito bite in the UK. But in the tropics a single mosquito bite can result in anything from an itchy ankle or mild fever to organ failure and death.

Tools of the trade

Despite their blood-sucking reputation, mosquitoes primarily feed on nectar from plants. Only the female mosquito needs additional protein in her diet to allow her eggs to develop; and the blood of animals is her favourite source.

Without this blood lust, female mosquitoes wouldn’t need to bite. Over the years she has evolved a few tricks that make her rather good at drinking our blood. Stealth is key ― if it hurt then we’d know about it, and the mosquito wouldn’t have time to find the perfect place to drink. Read more