Mosquitoes are annoying, but that’s partly because they are so amazing. Learn all about these tiny blood-suckers.
- Mosquitoes are like little robots. These robots are great at finding warm-blooded people. A mosquito’s head is loaded with a system of “people sensors.” It starts with chemical sensors. With their antenna, mosquitoes can sense carbon dioxide and lactic acid up to 100 feet away. They can also detect chemicals in sweat. Since people and animals give off lots of carbon dioxide and these other chemicals, it makes it easy for mosquitoes to find us.
- Mosquitoes also have good eyes. When you move, mosquitoes zero in on you — especially if you are wearing bright, loud colors. Since much of what moves is animals, this is a good strategy. And mosquitoes can sense heat too. Using the chemical sensors and the movement sensors to get close, they can then zero in on the heat of your body. They find a nice warm place to land, say on your arm, and then the fun begins.
- Female mosquitoes are the only ones that bite. They do this because they use blood as a source of protein. Without a protein snack, a female mosquito cannot lay eggs. So when the mosquito lands, her first thing to do is to stick her long, thin proboscis into your skin like a needle. She injects a fluid that keeps your blood from coagulating (thickening). Then she sucks up a drop of blood — about five microliters — and stores it in her abdomen. Once she is full, she flies away to lay her eggs.
Now you can see that mosquitoes are amazing little bugs. But because of all that itching and the threat of serious diseases, it’s good to avoid being a mosquito’s protein source. So don’t forget the bug repellent on your next picnic!