The mosquito (Spanish for “little fly”) in and of itself is merely an irritant. They probe, suck blood and reproduce. Their saliva is a blood-thinning and anti-clotting agent to improve the flow of blood. The lump is caused by histamines fighting off the saliva-based proteins left after feeding; also why ‘skeeter’ bites itch. The real problem with mosquitoes is the parasites. Many of these parasites migrate to the mosquito’s saliva glands and are injected into our bloodstream facilitating the transfer of disease. And these vampiric bugs carry many diseases.

Understanding Mosquitoes Vector-Borne Diseases

During the construction of the Panama Canal, the early French and European crews were devastated by mosquito-borne malaria. Deaths and debilitation defeated the French-led contractors. At times they had more people down with malaria than were working. The French effort was defeated by the engineering limitations of later 19th-century technology but also by a high worker mortality rate with yellow fever and malaria claiming over 200 casualties a month, as the connection to the mosquito as a disease-carrying vector where not understood at this time. The US took over in 1904 and it took a decade to complete. By then the role of the mosquito as the disease vector for yellow fever and malaria was understood the US was able to control these diseases within a two year period, though over 5,600 workers died.

List of Diseases Caused by Mosquitoes

Besides malaria and yellow fever, other diseases that are carried by the mosquito include Dengue fever, Ross River Fever as well as Saint Louis and related Japanese Encephalitis. These are viral infections of the brain that cause inflammation and swelling of the brain. They have a mortality rating of 3% to 30%, with higher mortality rates in the elderly. Some mosquito diseases can target horses and dogs, though many are limited to humans. Imported West Nile virus attacks both humans and horses. Of concern recently are diseases such as chikungunya where joint pain can last for years causing chronic pain as well as Zika virus which has been linked to a birth defect called microcephaly.

What Attracts Mosquitoes?

Over 3,500 species of mosquitoes have been identified and only the females feed on blood. Blood has high concentrations of lipids and proteins needed by the female to either produce eggs or augment the brood size depending on the species. Both females and males live on nectar and plant juices. Target preference for the blood-feeders is a genetically controlled component in mosquito’s make up. Generally, they prefer Type O blood, high bacterial concentration on the skin (bathing is important) high body heat and heavy breathers. If you’re this category you are a mosquito buffet. The hunter looks for a specific odor type and vectors in for the meal. That is why some of us are swarmed, while others may “walk through the valley of the shadow…..” and not be harmed or attract only a significantly reduced bite rate.

Mosquito Prevention & Control

Standing water attracts many of the blood-feeding species. Ponds and lake margins are the primary havens for these creatures but mosquitoes can easily breed in any stagnant water such as neglected birdbaths and other containers such as old tires or even toys left out after the rain. Mosquitoes are the primary vectors for many a disease. Few vaccines cover the plethora of virus infections carried by these pests. Many mosquito diseases have no vaccine, treatment or cure so it’s easy to see why preventing mosquito bites in the first place is so important. Contact Rentokil to learn about our mosquito control programs that can significantly decrease mosquito populations on your property!

Recommended Posts