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Mosquitoes: The New State Bird

Summer is well, half over if you’re not counting the summer solstice which occurred just a few short weeks ago. The kids have only been out for summer break for 4 weeks, and already the back to school sales are chomping at the bit to take a bite out of mom and dad’s checkbook. Before we start that conversation however we should really consider a different type of bite– A Mosquito Bite –

Here in Wisconsin we’ve had more than our share of rain, and of course with those MosquitoMosquito Bite Biteconditions come mosquitoes as they need standing water to breed. We’re thinking we might change our state bird. “Mother Nature Network” in an article by Melissa Breyer, gives us 10 interesting things you didn’t know about mosquitoes.

1. The smell of chocolate confuses them The carbon dioxide we exhale excites and attracts mosquitoes, which is a bummer since we can’t exactly stop breathing to prevent their stealthy attacks. But researchers have found that certain scents – some of them minty, some fruity, and some that smell like caramelized chocolate – can stun the buzzing bugs’ carbon dioxide sensors, thus making it harder to find their next dinner.

2. Mosquitoes buzz in our ears because … Mosquitoes can sense carbon dioxide up to 100 feet away. Since human beings exhale carbon dioxide through the nose and mouth, mosquitoes are attracted to our heads, perhaps leading to more incidents of “self-slapping while sleeping” than any other cause.

3. Male mosquitoes are passive Female mosquitoes are the ones that bite animals and feed on blood; while they’re causing us misery, male mosquitoes are flitting about the flowers and feed on nectar.

4. Viruses increase their bloodlust Female mosquitoes already have an unquenchable need for blood, but researchers have found that the dengue virus, which the mosquitoes transmit to humans, makes them even hungrier for the red stuff. The virus manipulates the insect’s genes to make them thirstier for blood; it also activates genes to increase the mosquitoes' sense of smell to become better hunters. (What a brilliant and creepy virus!)

5. Parasites makes them go nuts for dirty socks Not only do parasites live on and feed from their hosts, but these clever creatures can manipulate the behavior of their hosts to increase their odds of spreading. Scientists have shown that mosquitoes infected with the malaria parasite want longer and more frequent blood meals than non-infected mosquitoes, all to better the chance of getting a human host. Other research has found that mosquitoes with malaria are also drawn to the smell of human sweat; as was evidenced in experiments with the use of a well-worn sock.

6. Mosquito spit is itchy When a mosquito has set her sights on a target, she hones in, dive-bombs, and inserts her wee little proboscis into the victim’s skin. As she sucks she leaves behind a dollop of saliva, which serves as an anticoagulant so that she may better feast. Unfortunately, most of us have a natural immune response to mosquito slobber that results in histamines and the dreaded itch.

7. Not all mosquitoes carry West Nile virus Of the thousands of known mosquito species, the dreaded West Nile virus is found in around 60 of them. (It's also found in more than 200 vertebrates.) The virus usually cycles between Culex mosquito species and common urban birds like robins, northern cardinals and house sparrows. Nearly 80 percent of people who are infected with the virus will not show any symptoms, which range from mild irritation and stupor to coma and death.

8. Alexander the Great may have died from a mosquito bite Alexander the Great, king of Macedonia and conqueror of the Persian Empire, never lost a battle and is considered one of history's most successful commanders, but he may have met his final defeat at the hands (or mouth) of a mosquito infected with West Nile virus. A paper published in 2003 argues that a lone mosquito infected with the virus was his ultimate undoing.

9. They’re petite yet pokey An average mosquito weighs 2 to 2.5 milligrams, which would seem to enable them to fly more swiftly, but not so. Mosquitoes fly at speeds between 1 and 1.5 miles per hour, making them one of the slowest flying insects of all.

10. Mosquitoes are the deadliest animals in the world Beware the dangers of tigers, sharks, snakes? Actually, fear the mosquito, the most lethal creature on the planet. More deaths are caused by mosquitoes than any other animal, thanks to bugs' aid in spreading malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever and encephalitis. A single malarial mosquito can infect more than 100 people; and according to the World Health Organization, malaria kills a child every 45 seconds in Africa.

So there you have it, now what do we do to protect ourselves and family from the pesky little things:

1. Don’t give them a place to breed. Eliminate standing water. 2. They rest and hide during daylight hours in vegetation so keep your grass short and weeds etc trimmed. 3. When going outdoors protect yourself and children with the use of a recommended repellant there are four repellants that have a been approved by the EPA: DEET, Picardin, oil of Lemon Eucalypyus, and IR3535. 4. If entertaining or just relaxing outdoors place a fan or two on the deck as mosquitoes have a tough time in moving air. 5. Protect yourself from being bitten and eliminate where they breed with the proper safety training.

Further There are other insects you’ll want to protect yourself from and avoid like bees wasps and spiders, all of which present cause for concern to you, or someone you love. Now go out and make it a safe summer.

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