Prolific little bloodsuckers

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The oldest known mosquito is one found in a piece of Canadian amber estimated to be 79 million years old. It looks very much like any member of about 3,500 mosquito species worldwide today.

Mosquitoes lay eggs in standing water. Birdbaths, water bowls for outdoor pets, old abandoned car tires and buckets or cans left where rainwater can collect are all good breeding places for mosquitoes.

Natural foods for mosquitoes are plant juices and animal blood. They can puncture the skin of a plant leaf with their pointed "beak" just as easily as they can pierce human skin or a dog's muzzle.

Mosquitoes thrive best in swampy areas with plenty of vegetation and shade. They do not do well during hot drought periods. Of course, almost any forest will provide all the necessary ingredients for mosquito propagation.

Mosquito larvae can be seen in clear water. They are often called "wigglers" because of the unmistakable action they make to move in the water. Dragonflies, fish, bats, frogs and spiders are some animals that feed on mosquitoes. Yellow fever and malaria are two diseases transmitted by mosquitoes. It is estimated that about 2 million people worldwide die annually from mosquito-borne diseases.

Through the Woods is a weekly nature photo column by Aaron Horrell. Find this column at semissourian.com to order a reprint of the photo. Find more work by him at the O'Tenem Gallery.

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