A small inconvenience
The two suspicious characters hanging about at the top of the pic are mosquito larvae, commonly known as wrigglers, and their companion at the bottom is a red mite.
If you look really carefully, you’ll find similar creatures in most ponds around North Melbourne.
There are 3000 known species of mosquito and the havoc they wreak in the form of malaria and other diseases is well known. Mites have more species than you can poke a stick at and it’s estimated that in any square meter of turf you’d be poking that stick at hundreds of thousands of them in various guises.
Most mites of course are parasites. Some mites, or ticks, are only intermittent feeders and drop off their host after a good lunch, but the greedier, more permanent types, like the relation who comes for a weekend but never leaves, actually prove fatal to their host over time.
Using their powerful jaws, a mite will cut a hole in the host’s skin and then insert a type of combination harpoon and grappling iron with which they hold on with great effect.
Hardly state of the art technology, but practical all the same and if wanting to remove one from your own skin it usually takes a close encounter with a lit cigarette, or similar, to remove them.
As tiny as they are, the effects of mites on man can be enormous, with one variety, Acari, causing billions of dollars’ worth of damage annually to crops in the USA alone. The dust mite is another well-known species, living on dead skin (of which your lovely warm bed is full), they thrive in dark humid spaces.
Others which are becoming notorious are those which live on bees, the problems caused there now becoming quite alarming.
Found in virtually every environment, mites inhabit trees, fruit, rivers, lakes, the sea, even the respiratory channels of mammals and birds. Check out almost any creature in the bush and you’ll probably find a tick lunching on it somewhere. Life, it seems, is full of free loaders.
Mosquitoes (the word meaning “little fly” in Spanish) don’t bother crops, but they can certainly bother you and me. Only the female mosquito is a blood sucker, and she can drink up to three times her own body weight at one sitting (hubby has a sweet tooth and prefers to sup on nectar). Mrs Mozzie doesn’t use this blood as food, but as an agent to help develop her eggs, and you may be pleased to know, once she has exerted all that energy in having her fill of your vital juices, she has to rest up for a couple of days in order to produce her eggs. She will produce up to 300 at a time and will do this about three times during her short lifetime of a couple of months. Spare a thought for hubby though … he only lasts about 10 days.
The male locates the female by the sound of her wings (which beat more than 500 times a second!) and the fact they tend to fly below 25 feet may inspire some of you to make a pair of 26-foot stilts, even this late in summer (just a thought). If you tend to perspire, be prepared for an attack. They love the smell, and our skin produces a cocktail of about 340 different odours (including a couple of their favourites, carbon dioxide and lactic acid) so even if our local mozzies are picky, they’re bound to find at least one of your pongs attractive.
With us for about 200 million years now, the mozzie has honed her skills rather well, injecting her proboscis so that one tube draws the blood while another injects saliva into the wound as an anti-coagulant, as well as being a mild pain killer (so they’re not all bad). This is the stuff which causes the bite to swell and itch. As far as Malaria is concerned, the disease is not caused by the actual mosquito, but a parasite which has taken up lodging.
The eggs hatch into wrigglers which spend about ten days pupating in their home of stagnant water before squeezing their way onto the surface and drying out, then flying off. When it comes to understanding mosquitoes, it is said scientists are only scratching the surface, but I have been scratching my surface for years as I seem to be one of the ten percent of humans particularly desirable to these voracious insects.
Yes, mossies and mites may be tiny creatures, but they are certainly keeping the world’s scientists on their toes. Whack! Gotcha.
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