We can all probably foresee the benefits of eliminating mosquitoes to humans. Health costs will be reduced, while work and school productivity will be improved. Even World Health Organisation estimates an increase of 1.3% in Gross Domestic Product if Malaria was eliminated in affected areas.
Only female mosquitoes sting humans, and among the thousands of mosquito species in existence, only a few hundred of these female species aim humans. What is the purpose of mosquitoes? It’d be great if we kill all mosquitoes, isn’t it?
Let’s see whether mosquitoes have a purpose for their existence or simply exist to attenuate humans.
Serve the food chain of the ecosystem
They are a natural food source for many animals. The adult mosquito is eaten by birds like swallows and purple martins, though they also feed on mosquito larvae. Spiders also devour mosquitoes if the mosquitoes get caught in their net.
In their larval stage, they serve as a viable source of nutrients for aquatic creatures, such as red-eared slider turtle, goldfish, guppies and the Gambusia fish which we all love to call it the mosquitofish.
It makes us happy to watch the mosquitofish in action. Look at it go!
Pollinators of flowers
The main food source of mosquitoes is nectar found in flowers. As they travel from flower to flower, flower pollens will be attached to them and dispersed to the next plant to produce the flower’s offspring. What do mosquitoes do for the environment? They pollinate the flowers they feed on. Examples of these flowers are the Goldenrod and the Orchid.
If mosquitoes were removed from the food chain, their predators will have to search for other food sources. Flowers may have less pollination and face the risk of endangerment. This balance of the food chain has been voiced as the major concern from scientists.
However, Steven Juliano, insect ecologist of Illinois State University in Normal mentions that the ecosystem will adapt itself eventually and perhaps no long-term environmental damage will occur. It’s open for discussion.
Ninjas of their habitat
Mosquitoes actually defend their habitats such as the Amazon Rainforest, to prevent predators like us humans, and other wild animals from invading their habitat. By causing inflammation and diseases to external visitors, they are practically the little ninjas that protect their homes.
Mosquitoes being a transmitter of diseases, they indirectly keep population numbers in control. This includes human population and other animal preys as well. Our blood is a rich source of nutrients, and female mosquitoes need them to grow their offspring.
This was mentioned by an entomologist Daniel Strickman. If mosquitoes were gone, our population is going to increase as mosquito borne diseases will not pose a danger to us anymore.
Will this aggravate the issue of overpopulation? It is still open for debate.
Crime scene investigation assistant
How do mosquitoes help humans? Believe or not, mosquitoes are actually an invaluable tool for crime scene investigators. Blood extracted by these bloodsucking creatures contains our DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) and other genetic material unique to each individual. The genetic data can be amplified with Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and processed through other bioengineering steps, which can be used to identify the culprit or the victim. This method was first tested by Nagoya University. The blood can generally be traced back to the culprit if he/she was bitten up to 48 hours ago. Furthermore, most mosquitoes stay within a radius of a few hundred meters, making it useful for spatial measurement.
For instance, police managed to identify a car thief suspect of an abandoned vehicle in Lapua, Finland, by utilizing the blood of a full-fed mosquito found in the vehicle.
Should mosquitoes be allowed to exist?
Is it worth jeopardizing our natural environments and overpopulation to improve our health and economic costs? Or perhaps these issues are just exaggerated? Let us know in the comments below!
Moaquito blood image: Gabriel Rocha