Life Without Mosquitoes?
It’s that time of year again. Cottagers are waking from their long winter naps, docks are put back into the water, drinks with ice cubes and tiny umbrellas are being mixed. Summertime is just around the corner. And what would cottage country be without nature’s least loveable creatures? A new article published in Nature claims that cottage country may in fact, be just fine without mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes are extremely effective vectors of Malaria, infecting over 247 million people each year. They carry other diseases, too. Dengue fever, yellow fever, West Nile - you name it and the mosquitoes have it. In the Arctic, mosquito swarms are so thick that caribou can actually be asphyxiated from their sheer numbers. Not to mention their trademark itchy bites - the bane of every cottager’s existence.
Most scientists, I would argue, hesitate to call a species useless. Every species fulfills a role in its natural habitat, and is hard to replace if eradicated.
Not so, apparently, of the mosquito. As Nature reports, scientists such as Janet McAllister of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, don’t share this view. McAllister argues that mosquitoes are so small (calorie-wise) they do not fill an irreplaceable niche. Bats, for example, only rely on mosquitoes for approximately 2% of their diet. As Joe Conlon, of the American Mosquito Control Association, sees it: “If we eradicated [mosquitoes] tomorrow, the ecosystems where they were active will hiccup and then get on with life. Something better or worse would take over.”
However, even if the absence of mosquitoes wouldn’t have a substantial impact on the ecosystem, getting rid of them is proving difficult. Phil Lounibos, at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, has found that mosquitoes are frequently cross-breeding with each other, making it difficult to eliminate just one vector species.
So, while many cottagers would be happy to hear that mosquitoes may be eradicated with little lasting effects, this just isn’t possible. Mosquitoes, it looks like, will remain as much a part of Muskoka as the rocky landscape and clear blue water. Just don’t feel too bad next time you smack one before it bites you.