Everyone knows that "communication" with mosquitoes at any time of the day is a very dubious pleasure. An annoying shrill squeak, constant flickering in the face and, most importantly, exhausting itchy bites, made mosquitoes one of the main evils of a summer night. These flying insects can easily and naturally ruin a picnic in nature or deprive you of sleep, and then remind of themselves for a long time with combed bites. But why would a mosquito torment us with an itch, because you could just get drunk on blood and fly away?
Science has long known that only female mosquitoes feed on blood. Males of this species are real strict vegans and consume only nectar and plant juice. But the female needs a source of quality proteins and lipids in order to successfully lay eggs and give birth to new mosquito offspring. Blood is a concentrated and accessible source of nutrients that contains everything an insect needs.
To detect its target, the female mosquito uses several complex mechanisms that the most innovative weapons systems can envy. First of all, the insect notices a potential victim by the abundant release of carbon dioxide, which is exhaled by all warm-blooded animals. This ability can be called early detection.
Once a cloud of carbon dioxide is found, the mosquito uses heat detection sensors and chemical analyzers to help make accurate targeting. The mosquito is guided by 72 olfactory receptors on its antennae, of which 27 are focused on recognizing substances that make up the sweat of humans or other mammals.
Nature spared no effort and imagination to arm these bloodsuckers with maximum efficiency. Those heat sensors that serve to protect other insects from hypothermia are repurposed in mosquitoes to search for warm-blooded prey. Scientists from Harvard have determined that heat sensors in mosquitoes are tuned quite accurately and record temperatures in the range from +30 to +37 degrees Celsius. That is, the thermal imager of a mosquito is ideal for finding warm-blooded animals and humans as well.
After the victim of the attack has been selected and the site of the bite has been determined, the insect faces another difficult task - to pierce the skin. It is much easier for a mosquito to cope with children's skin, but bloodsuckers do not really touch it and they get it to everyone, without exception, including animals, with a much denser skin than an adult.
To damage the skin, the mosquito uses special teeth - maxilla, with which the insect acts confidently, but carefully so as not to get on the nerve endings. To hold the skin during this crucial moment, the mosquito uses mandibles - mandibles. This is similar to a tailor cutting a hole in the fabric with scissors while holding the fabric with one hand.
When the hole is prepared, a labrum is used - a thin and durable probe adapted to find a blood vessel and puncture it. After the source of blood is found, the liquid flows through the sting, which is a whole bundle of tubes, into the stomach of the mosquito. At the same time, the name "blood-sucking" is technically incorrect, because the mosquito does not suck anything out - the blood itself enters the cavity of its body under natural pressure.
To facilitate the flow of blood, the mosquito uses a special tongue - the hypopharynx, which creates a vacuum, like the lips of a baby sucking its mother's breast. But a plentiful meal of an insect would be impossible if it were not for the system of protection against blood clotting. Through the hypopharynx, mosquito saliva containing coagulants enters the wound.
It is the coagulants that prevent blood from clotting that cause the immune response of our body. Leukocytes, platelets and antibodies are immediately sent to the place where a foreign substance enters the body, designed to protect the body from outside interference.
In the process of a skirmish with foreign proteins, the same edema occurs, which turns red and itches unbearably. And this is not the most serious reaction, because sometimes mosquito bites cause allergies with great inflammation and temperature, which doctors have to fight with using special drugs.
But mosquitoes are indifferent to our suffering - when you scratch the bite site, the insect has already forgotten about a short meeting with you and is looking for a new victim to carry out the blood sampling procedure and provide itself with nutritional material for the production of offspring.
As for the annoying squeak, it is also part of the breeding system. For us, these are just the iridescent sounds made by the wings moving at a tremendous frequency. But males by this squeak can distinguish mature females, ready to reproduce, from too young, not of interest to them.
And we can only confuse the exact instruments of insects, hiding their smells with the help of special means, or come up with sophisticated methods of mass murder of sadistic bloodsuckers.
See also - 5 stages of mosquito life: from egg to hibernation
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