Confessions of a Vegetarian Mosquito Killer
I’m a mosquito hunter. If you’ve seen the Monty Python sketch, then you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, just scroll down. For me, there’s nothing more maddening than the high-pitch whine of a mosquito in my ear just as I’m drifting off to sleep. On any given night during mosquito season, you can find me prowling the house under-shorts (Shh! Don’t tell.) stalking my prey.
However, this morning I had an epiphany. It took one particular mosquito buzzing in my ear at 6:30 on this particularly beautiful early fall morning to make me understand that mosquitoes aren’t really all bad. Like Cat Stevens before the Qu’ran, “I think I’ve seen the light.” Now, I’m not saying I won’t ever smack another skeeter. But I might also start a new amnesty “catch and release” program in my household because I now have five reasons to love mosquitoes.
I’m not really a vegetarian. Phew, I got that one off my shoulders. But I bet you didn’t know that male mosquitoes actually are vegetarians. Male mosquitoes eat plant nectar–not blood–leaving us with the females as the only true blood-suckers. Now who’s made of sugar and spice?
I kind of admire their skill. I’ve killed mosquitoes on four continents and Italian mosquitoes from Venice are the hardest to kill. No joke, they’re sneaky little buggers. Turn on the lights and there’s not a mosquito to be found, but the second the lights go out, they’re in the air and on an intercept course with your veins. In fact, mosquitoes are such admirable fliers (I should know, I’ve tried to kill so many) that they now have their own ultralight helicopter named after them. Anyone else with a helicopter named after them? Yeah, me neither. OK, mosquitoes, you’ve got me there.
I share common interests with mosquitoes. No, not sucking blood. I’m not Karl Rove. I mean the other things mosquitoes do. For instance, in their youth, during their larval and pupal stages, mosquitoes are avid swimmers. Growing up, I went through plenty of stages, and while I can’t remember a larval or pupal stage, I can definitely remember loving to spend time in the water. In fact, I still love swimming and anyone who loves swimming too can’t be all bad in my book.
They help me appreciate nature. When I’m not killing mosquitoes, I’m appreciating all the many cool animals who do. Take, for example the Pirate Wolf Spider. The Pirate Wolf Spider!? What a name! Just think how many more biker chicks you could pick up with a name like that. These guys actually run across the water, snatching up mosquito larvae as they go. Or, if you’re the romantic type, consider another mosquito predator, the dragon fly. In South Korea, I’ve seen swarms of beautiful, orange dragon flies dipping through the air. Lastly, there are those spindly-legged toxorhynchites, or “mosquito hawks,” which really do eat mosquitoes when both insects are still larvae. The mosquito hawk is the only kind of mosquito where both males and females eat plant nectar and not blood, but when it’s a youngster this little beast can devour 10-20 mosquito larvae a day. So, thanks mosquitoes, for helping me appreciate some of those other critters out there.
I owe mosquitoes a “thank you” for some of the food I eat. As a mostly vegetarian (flexitarian?), I can appreciate a good stick of broccoli or a scrumptious panzanella as much as the next guy. In particular, I love eating wild berries on hikes. It turns out that, in addition to the above mosquito-eaters, a number of bird species also prey on the little vampires. So? The same bird species supplement their diets with fruit and seeds, dropping and, er… fertilizing seeds as they go. What’s more, insectivore birds don’t target stinging insects, leaving plenty of bees to pollinate fruiting plants. So, the more mosquitoes, the more birds, and therefore the more berries.
Bonus Reason: It’s the sex.
After reaching adulthood, male mosquitoes are not only harmless, they pretty much just want to get laid. (Come on, don’t hate.) What’s more, female mosquitoes don’t go for the body builder types. Average sized male mosquitoes get six times more action than larger males. Now here’s the really interesting part: according to biologist Ian Russell, mosquitoes are the only known insect to use “music” in courtship. Males and females seek each other out based on the shrill humming sound of their wings. Then, they begin to sing in tune together to mate, synchronizing their wingbeats to produce the same pitch and fly at the same rate as their partner.
Cheers to you, then, mosquitoes. After a lifetime of mosquito hunting, I’m ready and willing to bury the axe. But I’m not so sure about the guy in this video.
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