Mosquitoes. What have they done for you lately?

In December 2014 on December 8, 2014 at 10:28 pm


Sarah: My daughter is a mosquito magnet. If there’s a mozzie within a 5km radius* of her bare skin, it will track her down and feed with fury.

For her, twilight games of backyard cricket require physical barriers in the form of long sleeves, leggings and socks. Not ideal in the heat of an Australian summer.

This morning she spotted a little winged drone as we drove to school holiday activities — inside the car! With the window rapidly thrown open, she managed to flush it outside. And sighed.

“Mum….do mosquitoes actually do anything good for our environment?”

I knew just the bloke to ask. Proceed direct to twitter. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

A quick tweet from someone at a science centre on the San Juan Islands provided my first bit of new info:

Bat food! (among other things) — Kwiaht (@Kwiaht) December 8, 2014

Then up popped Dr Cameron Webb.

As well as good for frogs, fish, birds, bats and lots of insects they may also be pollinators of some plants! — Dr Cameron Webb (@Mozziebites) December 8, 2014

Another tweeter was also interested, evolutionary biologist Steven Vamosi.  

Any hard data on meaningful impairment to ecosystem function when they are excluded/absent? — Steven Vamosi (@smvamosi) December 8, 2014

Basically he was asking, ‘Are there any measurements of ecosystem health in places where mosquitoes have been removed?’ In other words, do we even know how important mosquitoes are to our world? Cameron replied:

Steve again (ty is twitter shorthand for thank you): 

Ty & indeed, but urgent need for data like that, as we present case to public about imp. of biodiversity — Steven Vamosi (@smvamosi) December 8, 2014

And Cameron agreed right back: 

Yes, information important for balancing environmental protection and human health in mosquito control too — Dr Cameron Webb (@Mozziebites) December 8, 2014

So there we had it. In short, my dear daughter, mosquitoes do make a positive contribution to our environment. But we need more information to understand this better. And we particularly need more information when it comes to the kinds of mosquitoes that spread not just itchiness but deadly diseases like malaria.

We can achieve this through scientific study. As an example, here’s some more reading from Cameron’s blog about how he has performed studies looking at the importance of mosquitoes in bat diets: what do bats eat more often, mosquitoes or moths?

*probably an exaggeration

  1. The implicit temptation in the girl’s question is to attempt total extermination. I think that would be a dangerous experiment, even if it were possible.

  2. yes I agree with you Mick.

    thanks for the comment 🙂

  3. Of course, we need to remember that there is a lot to love about mosquitoes too! Here are ten reasons to love those pesky mozzies…

  4. Thanks Cameron 🙂

Leave a Reply

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

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

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ 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 )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: