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Mosquitoes use six needles to suck your blood

 

Photo by Yu-Chan Chen licensed CC0 1.0

C’mon. Let’s be honest. Most of us are not big fans of mosquitoes. After all, they buzz about us until they leave behind an itchy red bump or two. But since August 20 is World Mosquito Day, let’s give the little bugs a break. Instead of complaining about them, why not find out a bit more about them? Here’s Mr. Orlando with some fun facts about mosquitoes.

 

Female mosquitoes feast on blood to produce their eggs.
Photo by Ryszard licensed CC BY-NC 2.0

If you’ve ever been bitten by a mosquito, it was a female one. While we say we’ve been 'bitten,' a mosquito doesn’t actually bite. It sucks your blood. Female skeeters pierce the skin with their mouth called a proboscis (say "pro-boss-siss"), which is a straw-like tube that covers six thin needles (called stylets) the mosquito uses to cut the skin, find a blood vessel and suck out the blood. Females have to drink blood to produce their eggs. Males, on the other hand, don’t produce young so they stick to slurping up nectar and plant juices instead.

 

A mosquito’s saliva — or spit — causes your bite to itch.
Photo by Keith licensed CC BY-SA 2.0

When a female mosquito pierces your skin, she releases saliva — the watery liquid in her mouth — into the wound. This helps to keep your blood flowing, so it doesn’t clog up the mosquito’s proboscis as she drinks away. The chemicals in the mosquito’s saliva irritate your skin and this causes you to get an itchy, red bump.

 

Antarctica and Iceland are the only places in the world where there are no mosquitoes.
Photo by Andreas Kambanis licensed CC BY 2.0

Nothing stops a mosquito from tracking down dinner. It hunts for a meal by sensing the heat that surrounds our bodies. It is also attracted to carbon dioxide. That’s the gas that we breathe out. Mosquitoes can detect the carbon dioxide we exhale from 30 metres away. And once they sense it, they follow that scent right to their target — us! If you’re looking to escape these bugs for good, you’ll have to go to one of two places: Antarctica or Iceland. These are the only two spots in the world where there are no mosquitoes!

 

Though mosquitoes can beat their wings really fast, they are slow flying insects.
Photo by Katja Schulz licensed CC BY 2.0

And we’re not kidding! Mosquitoes beat their wings up to 800 times per second. Imagine that! The buzzing sound that you hear when a mosquito gets close to your ear is made by the beating of its wings. While its wings beat very quickly, a mosquito isn’t a fast flyer. In fact, it’s one of the slowest flying bugs around. For the most part, mosquitoes prefer to hover in the air.

 

There's a huge mosquito statue in Komarno, Manitoba.
Photo courtesy of Gordon Goldsborough

It’s found in Komarno, Manitoba, to be exact. This Canadian town calls itself the mosquito capital of Canada. Guess that’s why it’s home to the world’s largest statue of a mosquito. The roadside attraction is made of steel, and the big bug has a wingspan of 4.6 metres — or about the size of a small car. The sculpture also doubles as a weathervane, spinning around as the wind picks up.