Mosquitoes: What’s the Point?

ENVIRONMENT

We could wipe mosquitoes off the face of the Earth. Why don’t we? (Nat Geo News)

Use our resources to learn a little about a slightly less drastic alternative here.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit, and vote in today’s poll!

This species of mosquito, Anopheles quadrimaculata, was responsible for malaria outbreaks in New York in the 1990s. Biologists recently modified a related species, Aedes aegypti, in a way that largely prevented it from being able to distinguish human beings—its favorite victim. Photograph by Darlyne A. Murawski, National Geographic

This species of mosquito, Anopheles quadrimaculata, was responsible for malaria outbreaks in New York in the 1990s. There are about 3,500 species of mosquito in the world, most of them mostly harmless.
Photograph by Darlyne A. Murawski, National Geographic

Discussion Ideas

 

  • What are the key reasons why scientists and health officials are not supporting a “kill ‘em all” mentality, at least not yet? Read through the Nat Geo News article or this great Conversation article for some help.
    • They’re an important part of some food webs. According to Nat Geo, “Mosquitoes serve as a food source for all kinds of creatures, such as fish, turtles, dragonflies, migratory songbirds, and bats.”
    • They’re pollinators and decomposers. Mosquitoes are important pollinators for plants such as goldenrods and orchids. (Including the awesome monkeyface orchids.)
      • Mosquito larvae are also an important part of the tiny biome of the pitcher plant, feeding on insect waste products and providing nitrogen to the plant.
    • They suck. The chemicals in a mosquito’s mouthparts are natural anticoagulants, which prevent the clotting of blood. Anticoagulants are an important category of drugs, used to prevent or treat life-threatening conditions such as deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, and stroke. Chemicals found in the mouthparts of mosquitoes and other bloodsuckers (such as leeches) could develop new, more powerful or affordable strains of anticoagulants.
    • They’re the devil we know. As the Nat Geo News article admits, “what would happen to the environment if—poof—all the mosquitoes simply disappeared? The short answer is no one knows.”
      • The Conversation goes a little further: “All that warm, nutritious blood suddenly available. There are plenty of other midges and mites, black flies and fleas out there just waiting for the opportunity to step in. Be careful what you wish for.”

 

Here’s what to look for!

Here’s what to look for!

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

Nat Geo: Zika Raises the Question: Are Mosquitoes Necessary?

The Conversation: Why don’t we wipe mosquitoes off the face of the Earth?

Nature: Ecology: A world without mosquitoes (great article!)

RadioLab: Kill ‘Em All and What If We Don’t Kill ‘Em All

Nat Geo: Mutant Mosquitoes Lose Lust for Human Scent

EPA: Prevent Your Exposure to Mosquitoes

New York Times: New Weapon to Fight Zika: The Mosquito

2 responses to “Mosquitoes: What’s the Point?

  1. Pingback: Climate Change Is Making Us Sick | Nat Geo Education Blog·

  2. Mosquitoes are the most deadliest flies in the world as it spreads Dengue, yellow fever, malaria etc., Get protection from mosquito bites.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s