Books·Canadian

The Mosquito

A nonfiction book by Timothy C. Winegard.

Timothy C. Winegard

Why was gin and tonic the cocktail of choice for British colonists in India and Africa? What does Starbucks have to thank for its global domination? What has protected the lives of popes for millennia? Why did Scotland surrender its sovereignty to England? What was George Washington's secret weapon during the American Revolution? 

The answer to all these questions, and many more, is the mosquito.

Across our planet since the dawn of humankind, this nefarious pest, roughly the size and weight of a grape seed, has been at the frontlines of history as the grim reaper, the harvester of human populations, and the ultimate agent of historical change. As the mosquito transformed the landscapes of civilization, humans were unwittingly required to respond to its piercing impact and universal projection of power.

The mosquito has determined the fates of empires and nations, razed and crippled economies, and decided the outcome of pivotal wars, killing nearly half of humanity along the way. She (only females bite) has dispatched an estimated 52 billion people from a total of 108 billion throughout our relatively brief existence. As the greatest purveyor of extermination we have ever known, she has played a greater role in shaping our human story than any other living thing with which we share our global village.

Imagine for a moment a world without deadly mosquitoes, or any mosquitoes, for that matter? Our history and the world we know, or think we know, would be completely unrecognizable.

Driven by surprising insights and fast-paced storytelling, The Mosquito is the extraordinary untold story of the mosquito's reign through human history and her indelible impact on our modern world order. (From Dutton)

The Mosquito is on the 2020 RBC Taylor Prize shortlist. The winner will be revealed March 2, 2020.

From the book

It is nearing dusk, her favorite time to feed. Although you heard her droning arrival, she gently lands on your ankle without detection, as she usually bites close to the ground. It's always a female, by the way. She conducts a tender, probing, ten-second reconnaissance, looking for a prime blood vessel. With her backside in the air, she steadies her cross-hairs and zeros in with six sophisticated needles. She inserts two serrated mandible cutting blades (much like an electric carving knife with two blades shifting back and forth), and saws into your skin, while two other retractors open a passage for the proboscis, a hypodermic syringe that emerges from its protective sheath. With this straw she starts to suck 3–5 milligrams of your blood, immediately excreting its water, while condensing its 20% protein content. All the while, a sixth needle is pumping in saliva that contains an anticoagulant preventing your blood from clotting at the puncture site. This shortens her feeding time, lessening the likelihood that you feel her penetration and splat her across your ankle. The anticoagulant causes an allergic reaction, leaving an itchy bump as her parting gift. The mosquito bite is an intricate and innovative feeding ritual required for reproduction. She needs your blood to grow and mature her eggs.


From The Mosquito by Timothy C. Winegard ©2019. Published by Dutton.

Interviews with Timothy C. Winegard

Author Timothy Winegard tells about his new book The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator. It's abuzz with facts about the insects, including the role they played in creating gin and tonic, and how they are implicated in the rise (and fall) of the Roman Empire. 23:14

 

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