Pesky Mosquitos and Their Role
By Sara Thompson
Special to the Enterprise
We have all experienced the unfortunate, itchy bite from a mosquito. These small insects are considered pests due to their large numbers, itchy bites, and their unrelentless nature to seek out and get a little bit of our blood. Despite how unsavory their reputation is, mosquitoes actually hold an important spot in the ecosystem.
Like all insects, adult mosquitoes have three body parts. Their head is for sensory information. Their large eyes help them detect shadows and movements, which is why they seem to always avoid being swatted. Their antennae are equipped to detect odors and find food sources. Mosquitos have over 70 odor receptors, and nearly 30% of those are used to detect odors present in sweat. The mouth of mosquitoes are specialized for their famous “biting”. Only the female mosquito will bite and feed on blood, the males will feed on nectar and other plant secretions. Females require the blood for producing eggs. To help extract blood from the host, a mosquito will release a small amount of saliva, this is what causes the itchy bump to appear that we all know and despise.
The middle part of the mosquito is called the thorax, and it is where all its limbs attach. It has six, long legs that it stands on while grounded. It also has two wings that it uses for flight. A mosquito’s wing can beat nearly 1000 times per second and produces a “buzzing” sound. The pitch of the buzz is higher in females and she uses it to attract mates. The abdomen is where the mosquitos will digest food, females will develop eggs, and they contain spiracles, which are breathing holes for insects.
Despite the reputation of being pests, mosquitoes actually have important places in the ecosystem. Firstly, because they feed on plant nectar, males exclusively, they are important pollinators for some plants. Females lay their eggs in standing water or water adjacent areas. Mosquito eggs and larva are important food sources for fish and other insects. Mosquito adults are also food for birds, frogs, and bats. Without being a food source for so many animals, a loss of mosquitos would force these animals to search out other options or compete for fewer resources, putting strain on their ecosystems.
Explore our latest exhibit “Our Wild World” and learn more about the animal kingdom. Explorit is open Fridays 1-4pm, Saturdays and Sundays 10am-2pm. General admission is $5 per person, Explorit Members and those aged 2 and under are free.
Explorit's coming events:
• Now is a great time to donate and help Explorit continue to educate and inspire the scientists of tomorrow: https://www.explorit.org/donate
• A Membership to Explorit grants the recipient free visits to Explorit’s regular public hours, discounts on events, summer camps and workshops, and gives you ASTC benefits to visit other museums throughout the world. To purchase or for more information visit https://www.explorit.org/membership or call Explorit at 530-756-0191.
• Now booking school programs for the newest school year. For more information, please visit https://www.explorit.org/programs. To reserve call (530) 756-0191.