Welcome to mosquito season, folks! Let's learn a bit more about our bloodsucking friends, shall we?
BuzzFeed spoke with Leslie Vosshall, a neurobiologist who's been studying mosquitoes, among other things, at the Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Behavior at Rockefeller University, and we asked the most important mosquito questions we could think of. Here's what we learned:
1. Only girl mosquitoes do the actual biting and bloodsucking.
2. And without our blood, they wouldn't be able to make baby mosquitoes.
"No blood, no new baby mosquitoes." ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
3. The perception that wearing dark clothing makes you more appealing to mosquitoes is probably true.
4. But there's no evidence to suggest that certain foods make your blood more or less desirable to the flying vampires.
"That's a folktale, with little science to back it up," Vosshall said. "Not to say that it might not be true, just no evidence either way."
5. Your pets are not safe from mosquito bites. 😿
6. If you think mosquitoes bite you because you "taste sweet," you might be right...
7. ...and it could be genetic!
"We are working on this fascinating problem," Vosshall said. "James Logan from the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene recently published a twin study that suggested a genetic component. Nobody really knows, and everybody is dying to know. We are working on it!"
8. If a mosquito is desperate for blood, it will find a way through your clothes.
9. But there's hope: You can become immune to mosquito bites...if you're bitten enough.
Vosshall, who works closely with mosquitoes, is now immune to their bites because she's been bitten so often. "Immune tolerance develops within a few weeks," she said. "I barely notice the bites anymore — even hundreds of bites per arm — I have little or no itchiness or redness."
10. If you are itching, it's because of what's in a female mosquito's spit.
"The female needs a few minutes to fully fill up with blood, so her spit contains some key things that trigger an itchy immune reaction in your skin," Vosshall said. "She puts in anticoagulants so that your blood flows, and also a local anesthetic so that you don't sense that she is feeding. The first moment that most people realize they have been bitten is when the mosquito 'pulls out' and is on her way off with your blood."
11. There's no foolproof way to prevent a bite, but there are some methods to protect yourself:
12. Hot water, after-bite wipes, and hydrocortisone cream can make the bite itch less.
"Some things that work for me and other lab members are to run the body part under extremely hot water right after you are bitten — for reasons that are unclear it is very effective at stopping the itching and minimizing the immune response," Vosshall said. "It might be that the hot water substitutes one very painful stimulus for another. Or that the very hot water denatures the mosquito proteins injected into your skin, thereby reducing the chance that you get a huge immune response at the bite site."
Other options are after-bite wipes, that contain some local anesthetic, and 1% hydrocortisone cream. Above all other things: DON'T SCRATCH!
13. Even if you occasionally wish mosquitoes would vanish, they do good things, too, like providing food for bats and birds.
14. The most deadly species of mosquitoes are called Anopheles gambiae.
"Most deadly are Anopheles gambiae because malaria is the most deadly disease that mosquitoes spread. Or Aedes aegypti because there are no vaccines or medicines to help with dengue in chikungunya. Or Aedes albopictus, Asian tiger mosquitoes, because they are a nuisance and bite all day long. Or Culex because they spread West Nile virus," she said. "I could go on."