Mosquito: A perfect machine!

tiger1Let’s imagine that you are working in the garden. A microbiologist is looking for you a dozen yards away to take a blood specimen from you. Since you cannot see each other and he does not know your exact location, he is going to ask for the assistance of a chemical, because the latter has specialized equipment for detecting and identifying small amounts of specific chemical compounds. Digging results in sweating and specific chemical compounds are being concurrently produced by your body. These compounds can be detected by the specialized equipment of that chemical who is going to find out from where these materials are coming (from your body) with the help of a surveyor engineer specialized in GIS. These two professionals are now designing the route to your house garden for the microbiologist by using a GPS unit. When the microbiologist arrives at your house, he is going to realize that your garden is very large and cannot find you, so he is going to ask a mechanical engineer for assistance. Then, the mechanical engineer will locate you with a temperature sensing device and finally the microbiologist will be able to take the blood specimen he wants.

In a quite similar way, let’s imagine that you find yourself in a beautiful place at dusk and you are being relentlessly attacked by mosquitoes that are interested in taking a similar blood specimen from you. You are shaking greatly the hands, because you believe that doing so mosquitoes will keep away from you. Shaking the hands results in increased production of carbon dioxide and lactic acid; this is the worst thing you can do. A mosquito, that is not nearby and has not possibly realized that a blood – meal is available in the area, can now detect you through its specialized sensors on the antennae. These sensors, a more sophisticated device than a GPS unit, will lead the mosquito to you soon.

As the mosquito is approaching you, it can now detect the shaking of the hands with the help of its compound eyes. The mosquito always adapts its flying style to your moving style whenever it approaches you and locks you as if you were targeted. In other words, despite the fact that you are enjoying yourself in an idyllic place, you cannot avoid being bitten by mosquitoes whatever you do; you will only achieve to attract them and have your blood sucked. Even very experienced pilots of war aircrafts would like to copy the way mosquitoes fly, get oriented and lock their hosts.

The body temperature is another parameter, the levels of which can be detected by a mosquito every time it approaches you. Mosquitoes reach uncovered parts of the skin and, thus, your blood.

Another – equally complicated – process now begins, that even several medical specialties would like to copy:

The female mosquito lands on you so softly and quietly, that you barely realize its presence. It will scan you thoroughly and its proboscis will penetrate your skin. The proboscis is not just a needle as many people believe; in fact, this a very complicated microsurgical tool placed in the body of mosquitoes that can perform microsurgeries in a telescopic way. After it has penetrated the skin, every movement of the proboscis aims to locate a blood vessel and intervene into the blood stream by creating a notch. If the first attempt is unsuccessful, the mosquito will withdraw the proboscis slightly, remaining however in the same opening, but changing slightly the angle of penetration. At the same time the salivary glands will produce a chemical compound which prevents from bleeding. Once the mosquito has tasted your blood, it will begin to suck it and finally get an amount of blood equal to 3.2 times its weight within 90”.

Having a blood meal (or should we better call it “human blood dinner”?) is an activity of mosquitoes that all people on this planet know very well. Female mosquitoes are those sucking our blood. What is not known is that mosquitoes like several other insects (e.g. butterflies) feed on nectar or other sources rich in sugars (e.g. rotten fruits). Why do female mosquitoes want to suck blood? The answer is that female mosquitoes need the protein of your blood to build their eggs.

In other words, every time a mosquito bites you, you can be proud of being a parent in a way!

Once the mosquito has taken the necessary amount of blood and does not need you any more, it flies away at low speed, due to overweighting. In this phase the mosquito is very vulnerable and can be an easy target to hit. If you fail to kill it (ending up having your own blood on your hands), the mosquito gets away and looks for a site to rest (walls, trees, etc) and digest the blood meal in 45 minutes or more.

The mosquito: Now, think of a resting mosquito somewhere in your house, in a secluded and dark corner. You may be thinking of its buzzing in your ears right now. This is the sound of a rival organism, the life cycle of which must be studied in depth to fight mosquitoes effectively.

Editing: Dr Antonios Michaelakis/Dr Evangelos Badieritakis