Stealth Sucks: Scientists are Studying Mosquito Sneak Tactics

Stealth Sucks: Scientists are Studying Mosquito Sneak Tactics on platinummosquito.com

Learn how this research can teach us valuable lessons

We’ve been in the mosquito business a long time now, but we’re still constantly learning new things about these fascinating creatures. For example, a study last year shed some light on why mosquitos are so difficult to detect, and the answer lies with their takeoffs.

It can be easy to compare mosquitos with other insects, such as flies. They are both about the same size, make a buzzing sound, and are generally pretty annoying. But when a fly takes off from a spot, it first pushes off and then begins to beat its wings. It’s because of their push-off that their location is revealed.

Mosquitos, on the other hand, start flapping before they take off – about 600 times per second. And when they’re ready, they use their legs to gently push off up into the air.

“Instead of going fast, they take their time, but they accelerate the entire time so that they reach a final velocity pretty much the same as fruit flies,” says Sofia Chang, a University of California, Berkeley graduate student working on the project. “That is something that might be unique to mosquitoes, and maybe even unique to blood feeders.”

This is why we barely feel them when they’re on us, says Florian Muijres, lead author of the study. “They push off so softly that you can never detect them. It’s a very challenging thing to do.”

Another interesting aspect of the stealth employed by mosquitos is that they make these nearly unnoticeable takeoffs with an empty stomach or one filled with blood, even though the latter almost doubles their weight. Researchers used high-speed cameras to see the mosquitos in action.

“These videos revealed that female mosquitoes carrying blood meals generate the extra lift they need to take off with such heavy loads by sweeping their wings across a greater distance during each wingbeat than do mosquitoes that are not carrying loads,” says professor Mimi Koehl.

What does this research mean for us?

Mosquitos have been – and continue to be – a global problem, as they kill hundreds of thousands of people every year with the diseases they spread. And because of factors like intense hurricanes and climate change, we’re seeing a growth in their numbers, which means combating them is more important than ever.

This is why a study like this one is important, said Ryan Carney, assistant biology professor at the University of South Florida, as it may help in preventing the spread of mosquito-borne illnesses. In this experiment, Anopheles coluzzii mosquitos were used, which are the main carriers of malaria. But Carney says it could be worthwhile to look at other types of mosquitos, including Aedes aegypti, which can carry Zika.

If we can better understand exactly how mosquitos fly, it may be easier to design traps and other devices that can take care of them more efficiently. The more we know, Carney says, the more we are able to use that information.

While it’s nice to know that people are working on the mosquito problem, for the time being, this doesn’t really help those of us who have to deal with these pests. Fortunately, there is something you can do right now to protect your property from these annoying insects: have a mosquito misting system installed.

This system will be set up strategically around your yard to prevent mosquitos and other biting bugs from invading your space. To get more information about how it works, contact Platinum Mosquito Protection for a free onsite consultation.