Sunday, July 11, 2010

Pink Piss & Mosquito Mystique

I thought I knew it all. Mosquitoes bite. They annoy. They carry disease. In their larval state, they wriggle about in puddles. And the vicious little beasties are found worldwide. Sound about right?

Wrong. As it turns out I knew very little about mosquitoes.

Have you ever seen a mosquito sipping nectar? I thought not. It is, however, the meal of choice for most mosquitoes. Their diet is quite similar to that of the butterfly.

Knowledge is a dangerous thing, but nothing can pry the hate from my heart. Mosquitoes are the enemy. Perhaps, though, alongside the hate could lie fascination, respect or even begrudging admiration.

Mosquitoes drink blood only to produce eggs. That’s right. All these years, you’ve only been fending off half the population.

Male mosquitoes are vegan. (Sometimes rare hermaphroditic mosquitoes bite too but let’s not go there.) In general, it’s the females that are the voracious vixens we know and love. Um, I mean hate, know and hate.

Female mosquitoes suck blood until they blow up like big bloody balloons and can hardly fly away. Their meal is so huge they have to land as soon as possible to excrete extra fluids. Yes, their piss is pink. It takes about 45 minutes to consolidate the nutrients enough to fly off in search of a safe place to hole-up and make eggs for a couple days.

That’s right, you’ve got it. We are the last meal before the little beasties mate and die. Actually she doesn't die, but she probably will soon. There are lots of mosquito predators out there. "Mate and die" isn't actually the best phrase, she's already mated too. Yep, she mates before she bites and stores the sperm to use at her convenience. Ingenious.

Really, wouldn’t you like to say, “Don't mind me, I'm just going to store up some of this sperm for later." Or, "Let’s have sex now and I'll get pregnant when I'm ready. First I think I’ll go out for an exceedingly rich, dangerous and gluttonous meal!”

Damn, I don’t want to like mosquitoes, but I have to admit I see a certain appeal in the femme fatale mystique… don’t worry this delusion will wear off next time I get bitten.

[Personally I haven’t witnessed any of this (except for the biting and the wriggling) but I read it all in “Mosquito” by Andrew Spielman (Harvard scientist) written in cahoots with Michael D’Antonio, Hyperion 2001. The part about the pink piss is on page 15. Facts provided are generally true of mosquitoes. There are, as always, exceptions and there are zillions of kinds of mosquitoes. Finally, thank you to “bilgik” for posting this awesome pic on stock.xchng.]


  1. Now I will feel more satisfaction when I kill a mosquito on me because I'll know I'll be killing the future generations of mosquitoes.

  2. I agree with you, Theresa. I was thinking the same thing when I read Annie's post.

    I did know that only the females bite, but I never knew what the males eat to sustain themselves. Thanks for filling us in... so now we are back to hating females. I think the males must have come up with the system, don't you?

    There is a wonderful children's book called "Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears" by Verna Aardema. I love that book, and I'm still going to hate mosquitoes -- almost as much as I hate black flies. Now Annie, don't you go trying to make me understand and respect THEM. That will not happen.

    Just to preempt any such attempt, let me tell you something I observed lately. I was being attacked while I was spray painting lattice work last week. I noticed I had a big old white welt from a black fly bite. I squushed the durn thing and kept on working. (One cannot quit very easily when the paint is in the sprayer.) I saw three -- not one, not two, but THREE other black flies biting me in the same spot. How many more did it while I wasn't looking, I don't know. Call it lazy or call it ingenious, but once the well was dug, they were not going to dig another... they just drank from the same drinking hole. Didn't matter that I had a big angry red welt the size of a baseball for a week. God, I hate them!

    We hear about how the ecosystem is inter-dependent, and if we wipe out even one species, it affects all the rest of the species. I am convinced all species would benefit from the total eradication of black flies. The bats and the birds would have to switch over to mosquitoes... wouldn't that be just too bad (I mean too good to be true)?

  3. Theresa,
    Every time you successfully swat one, you're wiping out about 240 potential mosquitoes. It's enough to make one blood thirsty.

  4. Saloma,
    Black flies! Brilliant. I can't believe that hadn't occurred to me before! Te hee, I feel a particularly wicked post coming on.