Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ….. then silence.
The most threatening sound is the silence. That’s when you know that it has landed.
By JJ Harrison (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I get that we’re all part of a food chain and hey who am I to talk? I really shouldn’t be passing any judgment on a little critter who fancies a mere drop of my blood every now and then. But to be honest that’s not really what bugs me. What really gets under my skin is all the freakin’ itchiness.
I have exposed my skin to the tropics over hurricane season and am now just covered in bites. Which has got me thinking. I don’t really understand the point of my skin itching. It doesn’t help me in any way and it doesn’t seem to help the mozzies either. It just makes me want to kill the blighters more. Trust me – a mosquito won’t have a chance once I’ve spotted one. Surely that’s not a good evolutionary tactic they’ve got going on?
So, I’ve done a little research on the topic.
Why do our mosquito bites have to itch so much?
First of all it’s only the female of the species that’s biting us to pieces cause the mozzie’s brother doesn’t bite at all.
Secondly, it’s not technically a bite. That large needle-like thing coming at you is called the probiscus so when she lands, probes it into one of your blood vessels and sucks you dry (OK, perhaps a little sensationalism), I suppose we should call it more of a mosquito suck.
Mosquito’s Suck. Fact.
Thirdly, and this is the part we’re really interested in, it’s her saliva that causes the itch. She rather cleverly has anticoagulants in her saliva so that when she’s drawing blood she leaves behind a little spit so she can do the sucking more efficiently. Our body has a natural immune response to the foreign mosquito saliva and creates histamines, thereby causing the bite to itch.
So there you have it.
And, unfortunately for us, mosquitoes have mastered the art of honing in on their prey. Here’s a mosquito I caught AFTER it had bitten me. Note all of my juicy blood in it’s belly. (Shudder).
They have chemical sensors that can sniff out carbon dioxide and lactic acid up to 36 metres away (which is pretty far if you consider how little they are). Unless we were to stop breathing we can’t do anything about that. There are also some chemicals released in sweat which seem to act like a shining beacon so unsweaty people (technical term) get bitten a lot less.
They also have visual sensors. This means besides buying extra deodorant you should try and wear clothes that blend in with the background. If you are wearing contrasting colours and start moving around they’ll zero in on you. They figure anything moving is probably alive, so it’s a good strategy they’ve got going on. Too bad camouflage is banned in Barbados! This frog should be fine. Can you spot him?
By Jaisen Nedumpala (Own work)
Finally they have heat sensors, so once they get close enough your hotness just renders them bees to a honey pot.
Apparently, 20% of people are especially delicious to a mosquito. It seems they have just the perfect blood type (Type O), secrete hormones that signal to any passer by exactly what that blood type is (85% of us do this) and finally give off just the right amount of carbon dioxide. (Explaining why children tend to get bitten less – they have little lungs).
All in all, as fabulous though the science may be behind these thirsty bloodsuckers, it’s hard to feel affection when they head in your direction.