Like any sane person, you probably hate mosquitoes. You hate that they sneak up on you and slip their proboscises into your skin. You hate the high-pitched whine that buzzes past your ear just as you’re dropping off to sleep, signaling that you have to rouse yourself, roll up a magazine, and kill the thing before you can rest. And, most importantly, you hate that they’re spreading diseases like malaria and Zika, killing millions of people every year.
But once you’ve watched this video from KQED’s Deep Look, you’re going to hate them even more.
For those too squeamish to view this intimate violation, here’s the summary. The female mosquito is the one that bites us, in search of blood, and it is now known that her proboscis isn’t just a single sharp, needle-like tube, but actually a set of six specialized tools.
Once she has settled on your skin, the bug peels back the protective sheath that covers these tools, and goes to work. The first two needles have teeth, and they saw through the skin. Then, like cranking open the ribcage to make room for open-heart surgery, the next two needles pull open the hole to give the mosquito space to work. She then plunges the penultimate needle into the now-gaping gap in your skin, and starts probing until it pierces a blood vessel.
But the mosquito saves the worst part until last. The sixth appendage drips mosquito saliva into the wound:
Mosquito saliva also makes our blood vessels dilate, blocks our immune response, and lubricates the proboscis. It causes us to develop itchy welts, and serves as a conduit for dangerous viruses and parasites.
This last part is how the mosquito makes life with mosquito bites so annoying. Even without the deadly disease spreading, the war we are fighting with them would be worth it. On our side, we’re building mosquito-zapping infrastructure–from streetlights to billboards— to help slaughter them. We’ve even designed a robot to dismember them with same the surgical precision they use to cut us open. It’s a dirty war, and we’re outnumbered, and it doesn’t look like it’s ending any time soon. And even if we could wipe out the mosquitoes, we probably wouldn’t, because it could be an ecological disaster.
So it looks like we’re stuck with each other.
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