In a poll of one, me, the answer would be a resounding “yes.” At least on the surface. But when I think about it for a moment, maybe not.
Mosquitoes are flies. They belong to the order Diptera; DI (two) plus PTERA (wing). They are distinguished from most other insects by the number of wings that they have, most insects having four wings altogether. Well except for the beetles where one set of wings is chitonized and protects the other set of wings. And then there are the Hemiptera in which only half of the one set of wings is hardened. Well, actually that’s mainly in the suborder Heteroptera. But I digress.
I don’t much like the Hemiptera either. They mostly have piercing mouthparts and can impart a nasty and painful “bite.” I know from experience. Been there. Done that. Don’t ever want to do it again.
Actually, I don’t much like any kind of fly either. Horse flies are nasty. Their bites really hurt. But at least I’m not allergic to them. Some people are though.
Okay, back to mosquitoes. I am moved to write about them because both my husband and I have recently received a number of mosquito bites. There are some 3,500 different species of mosquito. As far as I’m concerned that’s about 3,499 too many.
Only the female mosquitoes bite. To produce and lay their eggs, they need the blood of vertebrates (that includes all mammals and birds, reptiles, amphibians and some fish) and certain invertebrates; mainly arthropods: Insects (you know what those are), myriapods (centipedes and millipedes), arachnids (spiders, mites and scorpions), and crustaceans (you know what those are too).
The mosquito’s saliva (which contains an anticoagulant) is transferred to the host during a bite. This is what causes the itchy rash (and also transfers disease vectors). Some people are more allergic to the mosquito’s saliva than others. I’m one of those unlucky people. To add insult to injury, I also seem to be very attractive to the little menaces.
When we lived in California, it was the other way around than it is now. My husband was more allergic and more attractive (he’s still more attractive, but that’s another story) than I was. Or maybe it’s just the difference between Arizonan mosquitoes and Californian mosquitoes.
And it seems like the mosquitoes here are smaller, quieter and just generally stealthier than those we had in California. Not a happy situation for me.
Every year it’s the same thing. I get bit. The area turns bright red and swells up like crazy. If it’s over a bone and the swelling has nowhere to go, say on my forehead, it looks like someone hit me in the head with a bat minus the bruising.
In a couple of days, the swelling is still there, but the bite site has blistered. The blisters burst on their own and then the whole thing is a weepy crusty mess for several days. To top it all off, it itches so badly that I want to rip my skin off and touching it in any way (like to apply some nice soothing anti-histamine cream or some numbing lidocaine ointment) hurts so much I almost can’t do it.
And then there are the mosquito-vectored diseases to worry about. It is claimed that half of the people that have ever lived have died from diseases from mosquito bites. More conservative estimates place the death toll at something more like 5%. That’s still a lot of people.
So if there is anyone who would benefit from the sudden and very welcome vanishing of all mosquitoes from this earth, it would be me.
But. We have a large population of large, brown Mexican bats in our area. They winter in Mexico and every spring they come back here. They rely on the mosquitoes and other flying insects for their three square meals a day. There are also a huge number of birds that eat the mosquitoes. I’ve even seen hummingbirds plucking mosquitoes and gnats out of the air.
I’ve seen lizards snap them up (hear me cheering “Go, lizard! Go!”). Dragonfly nymphs eat the mosquito nymphs as do trout and other fishes along with any mosquito landing upon the water to lay her eggs. So a large part of the ecosystem relies on those nasty little flies for their livelihoods.
Here’s an interesting tidbit. Adult mosquitoes of both sexes eat nectar, aphid honeydew and plant juices in order to keep their metabolic processes ticking over. In the process, they help pollinate flowers. There are no plants that rely solely on mosquitoes for pollination, but they do make a contribution to the production of food.
So I guess we are stuck with them for now. And the answer to the question in the title is a solid “no.” Dang.