Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Julie. Julie Wonders, “Is there anything GOOD about mosquitos?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Julie!
Zika virus. Malaria. West Nile virus. Dengue fever. Have you ever heard of these illnesses? If so, you likely know what they all have in common. These are a few of the diseases spread by one of the greatest pests known to humankind—the mosquito.
Much of the time, mosquito bites are just itchy. Nothing ruins a backyard barbecue faster than a swarm of these bloodsucking insects. However, some mosquitoes carry viruses that cause deadly illnesses. In fact, some experts say mosquitoes are a bigger threat to human life than any other organism.
Over the centuries, mosquitoes are thought to have caused the deaths of 52 billion people. That’s half the people who have ever lived on Earth! Even today, illnesses spread by mosquitoes kill more people each year than war does.
It should be no surprise that many people would like to get rid of mosquitoes. What if we could wipe out the entire mosquito population? No more malaria. No more Zika. No more itchy bumps after a summer day spent outdoors. Doesn’t that sound great?
Not so fast. Sure, some species of mosquitoes harm humans. But others don’t pose any threat at all! In fact, some of these mosquitoes play important parts in their ecosystems. How do mosquitoes help the world? Let’s look at a few ways.
Many of our Wonder Friends already know that bees play an important part in pollination. It turns out, mosquitoes do, too! Most mosquitoes actually drink nectar instead of blood. When they do so, they help pollinate the plants they feed on.
It’s also important to remember that even mosquitoes are part of an ecosystem. Without them, the food chain would be disrupted. As larvae, they live in water and feed on algae and other small organisms. The mosquito larvae are then eaten by fish.
Adult mosquitoes are a food source for bats, birds, spiders, and small mammals. Without them, these animals would need to find something else to eat. Some experts even think mosquitoes could be used to help humans. Researchers are looking into using their saliva to treat cardiovascular disease.
Some historians even think mosquitoes have helped shape major events in human history. Two examples are the American Civil War and World War II. In fact, the Nazis used mosquitoes as a biological weapon. This caused the spread of malaria among Italian troops.
Of the more than 3,000 species of mosquitoes in the world, three are mostly responsible for spreading disease. And of those three, it’s only the females that bite humans. Some experts are looking for ways to target these species and end the spread of illnesses like malaria. However, they worry doing so could have more wide-ranging effects.
Mosquitoes are important to the ecosystem. Still, you should do what you can to protect yourself from their bites. How does your family stay safe from mosquitoes? Talk with an adult family member about how you can better avoid these pests.
Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, NGSS.LS2.A, NGSS.LS4.D, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.W.7, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2,