Regardless of where you live, there is no doubt that you have probably battled with a deadly foe called the mosquito. There are very few places in the world that is immune from the attacks that these little guys dish out to humans.
Little Hummers Keep Stealing Our Blood
They keep of humming along until a fatal swat comes from a fly swatter or most likely your hand. These little needles are seemingly relentless and manage to always keep themselves just out of reach. But now there is brand new research that is revealing just how these little thieves sneak in and steal our blood. The new data also indicates just how we could improve at fighting them off.
What makes it harder is that some mosquitoes are only about the size of a paperclip while weighing only a few milligrams. Even when their tummies are overflowing with blood, they are extremely difficult to see or even detect. However other flying insects, such as fruit flies, seem rather dainty. So why on Earth are these guys so much easier to feel in action?
Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, and also from the Wageningen University of the Netherlands have teamed up to evaluate the activities of these puzzling little vectors by utilizing some super slow motion film and footage.
Observing Mosquitoes on Their Terms
In is by observing monitoring hundreds of these specimens of Anopheles coluzzii mosquitoes using a very high-speed camera that these scientists discovered that these mosquitoes will begin flapping their little wings at a rate of about 600 times per second as they prepare to takeoff. After this, they will gently lift themselves in the air using their little spindly legs, as they levitate to safety.
And when you finally realize you have been bitten, it is then too late.
“They push off so softly that you can never detect them” pointed out the team leader Florian Muijres. “It’s a very challenging thing to do.” And just to compare, the team observed that a fruit fly will jump up and whip their little wing frantically in a clumsy manner that gives away their location.
“Instead of going fast, [mosquitoes] take their time, but they accelerate the entire time so that they reach a final velocity pretty much the same as fruit flies,” said coauthor Sofia W. Chang. “That is something that might be unique to mosquitoes, and maybe even unique to blood feeders.”
The results of this study could be extremely useful in the management of illnesses caused by mosquitos, said Ryan Carney, who is an assistant biology professor coming from at the University of South Florida in Tampa. These A. coluzzii mosquitoes there were used in this study were sterile and clean, however when they are in nature, they can be the carriers of diseases like malaria.
But with the data gather from this study, many feel that studying other mosquito species would be quite worthwhile. Their flight dynamics should be investigated – especially for the Aedes aegypti and Culex mosquitoes who carry the West Nile and Zika virus.
And to discover ways to fight back mosquitoes has become even more of a priority after experiencing the recent hurricane season which has been beyond intense.
For example, after Hurricane Maria blasted Puerto Rico, very fierce winds and intense flooding wiped out a lot of the mosquito population in the area initially. However, this storm left stagnant water pools in its wake when turned into a regular mosquito haven. And the poor people who are still living without windows, roofs, and air conditioning are suffering in a big way.