That Southern Indiana High Pitched Bzzzzzz

by Curt Kovener

Have your tried to sit out on your deck in the evening or enjoyed a cup of coffee on the porch only to be driven in by those invading hoards of mosquitoes? There are more than 2,500 varieties of mosquito (some entomologists claim 3,000) buzzing from the Arctic tundra to the tropical rain forests. Most are active at dawn and dusk, while others enjoy midday feeding.
The 2nd largest mosquito is a roadside attraction statue in Komarno, Manitoba, the Mosquito Capital of Canada. “Komarno” is Ukrainian (in Canada???) for “mosquito.” Sculpted in 1984, it is made of steel and has a wingspan of 15 feet. It’s also a weathervane, swiveling in the wind.
•In 1998, researchers found a new mosquito species in the London Underground, descended from ancestors that flew in when the tunnels were dug 100 years ago. Once bird-feeders, they now feast on a menu of rats, mice, and people. They rarely interbreed with their aboveground colleagues. Their DNA actually varies from one subway line to another.
•Mosquitoes do not bite, they suck. (Editor’s Note: Boy do they!) It would take 1,200,000 mosquitoes, each sucking once, to completely drain the average human of blood. While that seems unlikely, in the Arctic, Canadian researchers who bared their arms, legs, and torsos reported as many as 9,000 bites per minute from swarming, newly hatched mosquitoes. At that rate, an individual could lose half his blood in two hours. (To say nothing of the incredible itch.)
•Once a feeding mosquito is full, a chemical signal shuts down the intake. When that signal is disabled in the lab, mosquitoes suck until they explode.
•According to a University of Bristol study, male mosquito “ears” are packed with about as many sensory cells as human ears, helping amorous mosquito males identify and pursue passing females. When a mosquito detects the whine of the opposite sex, it begins to synchronize its own pitch to match that of the potential mate. Sexually affectionate males can “relate” to girl frequencies in a second or two. Females take several times longer to synchronize. (This seems to be the same with humans in a bar.)
•Mosquitoes can mate in midair, often in as little as 15 seconds from approach to fare-thee-well. There are no known instances of prior cocktails, dinner or a promise to call tomorrow.
•Male mosquitoes are actually sensitive vegetarians, living on nectar and plant juices. Only females drink blood, for protein to make eggs.
• Here’s something to be thankful for: Millions of years ago, mosquitoes were three times as large as they are today.
•Eyes occupy most of the surface of a mosquito’s head. Not eyes into which one might wish lovingly to peer, these compound-lensed organs deliver infrared images of heat patterns emanating from a body. Like the alien in Predator.
•Mosquitoes also use your exhaled breath to track you down, especially when you sleep or have been exercising. Fortunately, they clock out at only 1.5 mph-so you can’t hide, but you can run.
•Central America’s so-called Mosquito Coast (a thin strip of land along the Caribbean in Honduras and Nicaragua) is not named for the insect, but after a mispronunciation of the indigenous Miskito Indians.
•Abuja, Nigeria, is home to the world’s biggest mosquito net, unveiled in 2000 as part of a national campaign against malaria and other insect-borne diseases. Two hundred children fit under the statue.
•Millions of people alive today will die of a mosquito-transmitted disease. Malaria alone claims some 1,000,000 lives a year in Africa. Other top killers include dengue, yellow fever, and West Nile virus. But they won’t die of AIDS. HIV-infected humans actually have very few virus particles in their bloodstream, and should a mosquito suck one up, it gets killed by the mosquito’s digestive system