Thank you all for responding to the previous blog by naming the creature you’d like to be transferred into by your friendly neighbourhood wizard or fairy godmother. Needless to say, this calls for further investigation into the kind of animals some of you have chosen. Starting with the lovely Dutch contingent among my blog readers, I’m taking a closer look at mosquitoes today.
Like Indiana Jones I detest bugs and other insect critters. In fact, anything that flies around the room usually gets my undivided attention, followed by hysterical screams of “buzz off and bite somebody else for a change”…
Female mosquitoes get their food by biting and sucking the blood of living beings, such as animals and humans. In that they are quite similar to vampires described in Willow the Vampire and the Sacred Grove, but that’s where the similarity ends and rest assured, no self-respecting vampire living in Stinkforth-upon-Avon would ever wish to transform into one!
Female mosquitoes use their long feeding tubes to pierce the skin of their victims and then they suck up that lovely red juice of life. Blood gives the mosquito-lady all the extra protein she needs to produce eggs from a tube at the very bottom tip of her body.
Mosquitoes belong to the group of insects called arthropods – along with spiders, crustaceans, centipedes and various other invertebrates. Together they account for ¾ of all known animal species on our planet and there remain millions more of them to be discovered by scientists.
Some arthropods are venomous and are so lethal their bite can actually kill a human or even larger animals. The mosquito bite is not fatal because of the insect’s own poison – it can kill because a mosquito bite transmits malaria and other deadly diseases, while the little critter is busy sucking human blood.
The very first arthropods appeared on Earth some 530 million years ago and scientists believe these creatures were the first ones to leave the sea (crustaceans being among the very first arthropods). Arthropods were also the very first to sprout wings and take to the sky.
Given how much longer these creatures have been on the planet than humans, they are naturally extremely well adapted and have managed to slay more of us than probably any other animal. Perhaps malaria-giving mosquitoes have taken on the task to avenge all those wonderful animals we drive to extinction on a daily basis? Maybe it’s not the mighty lion who’s leader of the animal kingdom, but this tiny buzzing thing?
Before the eco warriors among you rush out to the great outdoors to re-name a few mosquitoes affectionately “Buffy”, “Willow”, “Edward Cullen” or even in honour of Anne Rice‘s “Lestat”, please remember that mosquitoes slay indiscriminately. Their victims include millions of women and children. There is no effective vaccine at present and so far, the little bloodsuckers have won every battle we’ve waged against them.
In 2010 some estimated 1,238,000 people died from malaria and in 2009 an estimated 225 million cases of malaria were reported. Although insect repellent, mosquito nets and the draining of standing water near human settlements have had some positive effect, once bitten the suffering inflicted is intense and 60% of the victims are children in Africa.
If we could only find a way to reprogram mosquitoes! They could spread death among murderous tyrants, thieving politicians, dishonest bankers and other corporate monsters…now that would truly be a step forward in evolution and in pest control.
Next time I’ll be looking at hawks, as chosen by one of you. Not a cuddly animal either, but certainly preferable to arthropod bloodsuckers!