What Purpose Do Mosquitoes Serve?

It's hard to justify the existence of these annoying critters

Do mosquitoes have a purpose Do mosquitoes really serve any important purpose, other than to torment us?
By Elizabeth Miller    Share by email   Share on Facebook   Bookmark on del.icio.us   Digg on digg.com   Bookmark on Google   Submit on reddit.com   Share this on Twitter

Mosquitoes seem to serve no purpose other to annoy us. But from the mosquitoes' point of view, their purpose is to make more mosquitoes. From the point of view of birds, fishes, frogs and other animals that eat them, their purpose is to provide a source of food.

But does the world actually need mosquitoes? It's hard to find a reason.

An article by Janet Fang in the July 2010 magazine Nature asked scientists what the world would be like without mosquitoes.

Most of them thought that we wouldn't miss the annoying little creatures. Disease among humans would decrease, if the mosquitoes that spread malaria, dengue fever, encephalitis and other illnesses disappeared.

"Crazy random bug trivia that makes reading about insects fun, for younger kids."

In the Arctic tundra, mosquitoes form dense clouds when they hatch. Birds which nest in that region might miss them as a source of food, if they disappeared. But other scientists say that mosquitoes don't make up a large enough part of the birds' diets, and they could survive on midges or other insects just as well. Caribou, which must deal with the onslaught of the mosquitoes, might change their paths, feeding in new places, and alter the ecosystem in localized areas of the Arctic.

Elsewhere, fish, frogs, lizards, spiders and other animals that eat mosquito larvae or adult mosquitoes would lose a food source. Mosquitoes make up a small part of the diet of some, but others, like the mosquitofish or gambusia, which specializes in eating the larvae, might become extinct. But most animals already eat enough of something else, or could change their diet, so they wouldn't go hungry without mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes swarm in the Arctic, where their purpose seems to be to torment caribou and become food for birds, though they also pollinate some flowers.

Mosquito larvae consume a lot of organic matter in wetlands, helping recycle nutrients back into the ecosystem, but other larvae and water-dwelling creatures also do the same and could take over that job.

Adult mosquitoes feed on nectar as well as blood--in fact, nectar is all the adult males eat--so some plants might suffer due to lack of pollinators if mosquitoes stopped visiting, especially northern orchids. Though this might alter things somewhat, the plants aren't necessarily crucial to the ecosystem.

The biggest effect, is that fewer people would die of mosquito-spread diseases, so there would be more humans on the earth, especially in countries that are already having trouble supporting their populations. But humans would be healthier, more productive, and not have to spend so much time and effort caring for those who were sick. "The romantic notion of every creature having a vital place in nature may not be enough to plead the mosquito's case," Janet Fang concludes, in the Nature article. "It is the limitations of mosquito-killing methods, not the limitations of intent, that make a world without mosquitoes unlikely."

Mosquitoes spread malaria Mosquitoes' most noticeable purpose in Africa is spreading malaria and other diseases.

Of course, when imagining a world without mosquitoes, one must imagine that they were killed in a way that was harmless to other creatures, and that's part of the reason we can't just eliminate them, as much as we'd like to. Insecticides kill not only mosquitoes, but other animals too. Even specially targeted natural larvicides, like those using Bti, kill a few closely related species such as black flies and gnats.

So even though mosquitoes don't seem to have a purpose, other than to cause us annoyance and misery, we can't just get rid of them right now, without doing more harm to other species that are more useful.

More articles:

Images courtesy of acscom at Stock.xchng and Africa at freedigitalphotos.net.

portraitWHY THIS WEBSITE?

Mosquitoes can turn a beautiful backyard or patio into a nightmare, and keep you from enjoying the barbecue or pool or just the back-porch swing. Ugh. I hate them. Not to mention the nasty diseases they carry to people and pets. But it doesn't have to be that way! I know from experience... Read more.

--Elizabeth Miller

Site Map         Privacy Policy         © 2012 MosquitoReviews.com

All articles and comments are the opinion of the authors, and we cannot guarantee the accuracy or the currency of the information. MosquitoReviews.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. It also may participate in other similar affiliate advertising programs and may receive compensation for sales through links from the site. Pen-names and models' photos are used.

Mosquito reviews