Often referred to as the deadliest animal in the world, and mostly found in Africa, South America and Asia, mosquitoes are particularly known for their blood sucking habits, and the transmission of serious diseases, such as malaria, yellow fever, Zika fever, dengue, and filariasis through its bites. No other animal's bite sickens or kills humans as the mosquito's. According to research, every year, mosquitoes kill millions of people, with children and pregnant women being the most vulnerable. They do this using six needles. So how do they use these needles?
Firstly, only female mosquitoes bite. There are two things these female mosquitoes need;
- Blood to make eggs, and
- Stagnant water to hatch their eggs
According to scientists, once a mosquito’s proboscis (mouth) pierces the skin, one of its six needles, called the labrum, uses receptors on its tip to find a blood vessel. These needles are very sophisticated, making mosquito bites highly effective.
A look at the mosquitoes head under a microscope reveals that there’s a protective sheath (Labium) which houses six needles (proboscis; These include: A pair of maxillae, which have tiny saw-like teeth at their tips, used to pierce and cut the skin -she uses these two needles to pierce through the skin). After the mosquito finds its victim (through carbon dioxide, body heat and volatile fatty acids), her labium (protective sheath) retracts, exposing the six needles that make up her proboscis.
She then uses the maxillae to pierce through the skin. Two other needles (mandibles) hold the tissues apart while she finds her way through the skin, looking for a blood vessel.
Our blood vessels naturally exude chemicals, the receptors on the tip of one of her other needles pick up these chemicals and guide her through it. She then uses the fifth needle called labrum to pierce a blood vessel, and also as a straw.
She separates the blood from water and squeezes it out as her gut fills up, freeing up space to fill herself some more. Because human blood tends to coagulate shortly upon contact with the air, she then spits chemicals into us with the sixth needle (hypopharynx). This helps with easy blood flow, leaving a soothing itchy feeling.
Sometimes before she says goodbye, she leaves a souvenir; a parasite or virus that can cause any of the earlier named diseases, which can eventually sicken and kill its victim.