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The Nature Nut

Learn about liverworts
Mosquito. (Wikimedia Commons/Flickr)

Now that we have had a very hard frost we can breathe a sigh of relief – no more mosquitoes. Or can we? I just found one inside my house this morning. I suppose he/she came in searching for warmth as some do hibernate as adults.

This past spring and summer were pretty good for mosquitoes – or rather good for us, but not for them. The hot dry weather meant standing water and pools dried up early in the season. These are where the adult females lay their eggs and the larvae develop.

Did you know that 48 species of mosquito have been confirmed to be in British Columbia?

Imagine you are sitting still taking a rest indoors (or outside) and this one pesky female keeps bothering you by hanging around your face like a bad smell. She (it must be she as the females are the ones that are looking for a blood meal for their egg production) – is in easy reach you think. So, you take aim confident that you clapped her between your hands, but a quick look reveals that she got away. How did she do that?

Recent research in the Netherlands using high-speed infrared cameras in a darkened room and mechanical swatters found mosquitoes can sense an incoming strike by detecting a change in the airflow. The mozzies then make sharp turns away from the swatter (even in darkness) and surf the air pressure in the direction of the flow – just like surfers swimming in the same direction as incoming waves in the ocean.

This makes perfect sense if you think about it. The females must use every trick in the trade to get a blood meal and avoid death. All animals that are attacked by them have some form of movement designed to avoid being bitten.

My strategy is to wait until the female is moving toward a place to land and, when she is close, slapping her with an overhand, downward movement. Even if she does detect the change in air flow, she has a more limited escape route as she cannot fly away in a forward direction i.e., into the arm of the chair or my knee.

If I am fast enough, she does not have time to change direction and it works more times than fails.

Mosquitoes do have value – as pollinators of small green flowers (like some wild orchids) and as food for our birds and bats.