Dangerous Animals: The Mosquito

The deadliest animals on earth are mosquitoes!

When you think of dangerous animals, your mind probably goes immediately to man-eating sharks, tigers, lions, or other big predators. Or perhaps your first thoughts are of venomous snakes or spiders. Surprisingly, the deadliest animals on earth are tiny, and these deadly creatures lack the claws and big sharp teeth that you might normally associate with the world’s most dangerous animals. This unassuming little killer is the mosquito, believe it or not. More specifically, it’s the anopheles mosquito. This mosquito species is considered the deadliest creature because it’s responsible for the most human deaths every year.

Anopheles mosquitos

There are more than 3,000 species of mosquitos, and all of them aren’t dangerous to humans. Many mosquitoes, however, carry diseases that can be deadly to humans and animals. The most important mosquito-borne diseases that affect humans are dengue fever, West Nile virus, Rift Valley fever, Ross River fever, Chikungunya, elephantiasis, and malaria. Of all these diseases, malaria is the deadliest. According the Centers for Disease Control, malaria causes about two million deaths each year, worldwide. Most cases are spread by Anopheles mosquitoes.

There are more than 400 species of Anopheles mosquitoes, and of that number, more than a hundred are capable of spreading malaria. Like other mosquito species, the Anopheles begins as an egg. A female lays up to 200 eggs at one time, always in water. In warm climates, the eggs take just a couple of days to hatch, while in cooler areas, the eggs might take as long as three weeks to hatch.

The eggs hatch into mosquito larvae, which can swim. They survive by feeding on microorganisms, both on and under the surface of the water. These mosquito larvae are very adaptable. They can survive in fresh water, salt water, and even in small mud puddles. After several changes, the mosquito becomes a pupa, and within just a few more days, the pupae become adult mosquitoes. The entire process might take as little as a week.

Anopheles mosquitoes are found in much of the world. This includes Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, the northern sections of South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. In the United States, the Anopheles mosquito can be found in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, California, Oregon, Washington, and in all the states east of the Mississippi River.

The Anopheles mosquito and malaria

Malaria is actually caused by a parasite known as Plasmodium. How do mosquitoes spread Plasmodium? As you know, mosquitoes feed on blood from animals and humans. When the mosquito sucks blood from an infected human or animal, the Plasmodium enters the body of the mosquito and creates sporozoite cells that wind up in the mosquito’s salivary glands. When an infected mosquito bites a host and feeds on their blood, the Plasmodium is transferred to the new host.

After a human has received a mosquito bite from an infected mosquito, symptoms of malaria will usually present quickly. Major symptoms of malaria include coldness, vomiting, shivering, fever, pain in the joints, sweating, anemia, and convulsions.

Almost all cases of deadly malaria are caused by just one Plasmodium, Plasmodium falciparum. Most cases occur in Africa, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, but there have also been cases in Central America, South America, the Middle East, and India and other Asian nations. Malaria was almost completely eradicated in the United States by 1947, but before that, some 30% of the people living in the Tennessee River Valley were affected by malaria. It’s important to remember that not all forms of malaria are life-threatening.

Mosquito repellent and mosquito eradication

Nobody likes mosquito bites! Even if you’re in an area where malaria has been eliminated, there are other diseases you can get from mosquito bites. The best way to ensure your protection is to get rid of the mosquitoes and to avoid them as much as possible. Standing water invites mosquitoes to lay their eggs, so eliminate these “mosquito nurseries” when you can. If you have garden ponds in or near your yard, add some fish that will eat the mosquito larvae.

Most experts believe the best mosquito repellent is one that contains DEET. DEET is a yellowish oil that was developed by the U.S. Army. There have been several theories as to why DEET works as a mosquito repellent, and I won’t get into all of those here. Suffice it to say that mosquitoes just don’t like it! Spray a mosquito repellent that contains DEET on your skin and on your clothing.

If you want a more natural mosquito repellent, try a few common plants: citronella, pennyroyal, lavender, catnip, and basil. The stems and leaves of marigold plants can also serve as an effective natural mosquito repellent. Some people also swear by Bounce dryer sheets, garlic, rubbing alcohol, and Listerine as mosquito repellents. I haven’t tried all of these, but my husband works outdoors a lot, and he says the Bounce sheets help some, but they’re better at discouraging gnats than mosquitoes. From my personal experience, a spray with DEET is the best mosquito repellent against these dangerous animals.

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Comments 22 comments

VendettaVixen profile image

VendettaVixen 4 years ago from Ireland

Ugh, you don't have to tell me how dangerous they are to keep me away from them. If I see any creepy-crawly-like creature, I'll run a mile.

Seriously though, great article. Very interesting and informative.


ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 4 years ago from Quito, Ecuador

Wonderful article. As someone who has experienced malaria I can appreciate the information. You might try taking a vitamin B complex before entering mosquito infested areas. I works pretty good here in the rainforest.


kerlynb profile image

kerlynb 4 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^

In my country, dengue patients can fill up a medium-sized hospital, really. Dengue season here starts in June but outbreaks in selected places have been reported almost every month of the year. It's so bad. There's no vaccine nor treatment for dengue. All the medicines given to patients are just for the symptoms - really high fever, weakening immune system, and blood loss. We have yet to find a cure for this deadly disease.


ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 4 years ago from Quito, Ecuador

We have dengue here in Ecuador as well but luckily I have never had to suffer through it. Malaria is bad enough, dengue is worse. Or worst times for malaria and dengue are January through April. One year we had as many as 15,000 cases of malaria. For a small country that is quite a lot. I live in Quito which is too high to worry about the malaria and dengue carrying mosquito but with my work I make many trips to both the coastal jungles as well as the Amazon basin.


habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Vixen, mosquitoes don't seem to like me much, although they LOVE my husband! I've read that it could depend on your body temp, and mine is always low, unless I'm sick.


habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

kerlyn, that's awful! Now I'll worry about you next summer!


habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

OMG, Colibri - you had malaria?! Did you write a hub about your experience? I'd love to read it!


ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 4 years ago from Quito, Ecuador

No Habee, I never wrote about my experience. It happened several years ago, but I have had a couple of relapses since. Malaria never really goes away, it stays dormant in the blood and then crops up when you are weak. I may have to write about it.


habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Colibri, I think that would be a hub many would find interesting!


incomeguru profile image

incomeguru 4 years ago from Lagos

Africans are seriously fighting malaria which is killing mostly African children. And this is because they don't know how to get rid of mosquitoes.


habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

guru, I just read about that. What a tragedy.


ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 4 years ago from Quito, Ecuador

I read an article this past week that said they may have come up with a malaria vaccine. That is good news.


carcro profile image

carcro 4 years ago from Winnipeg

We have our share of mosquitoes, but thankfully not the deadly kind. There more of a nuisance than anything. We've been lucky the last few years, we have had a huge influx of dragon flies, so our mosquito population was minimal. I guess living in a cold climate is ok after all. Great hub by the way, lots of interesting reading for us mosquito buffs! Voted Up!


Cloverleaf profile image

Cloverleaf 4 years ago from Calgary, AB, Canada

Mosquitoes and I are indeed not the best of friends! They hunt me down, bite me and then I swell up like a balloon. So I have to be especially careful to protect my skin and I actually find that some deet-free repellants work quite well too (I published a hub about it my findings). If (no, when) I do get bitten then Vicks Vaporub is the best thing to take away the pain and swelling. I enjoyed your informative article, Habee, nicely done.


IS1820 profile image

IS1820 4 years ago

Great Hub. I don't think that people actually realize how many deaths mosquitoes can cause. Just a bit of more info on mosquito control - most of the problem was in Central Africa but over the last years the problem in South Africa has risen to very high levels. Most of the African problem is the worst due to the large areas and the lack of preventive measures by people who do not have the resources or the knowledge of them. Most western countries as we have in my country, have recommendations and even programs for travellers into disease infected areas.


habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

colibri, that would be awesome! Thanks for letting me know.


habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks, carcro! We have lots of "skeeters," too. One year I had a colt that got EEE from a mosquito.


habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Many thanks, Clover! Mosquitoes have a terrible effect on my youngest daughter, too. They don't really like me much, thank goodness. lol


habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

1820, thanks for the additional info about mosquitoes and mosquito control. We have so much to be thankful for!


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 4 years ago from London, UK

Oh, they are horrors, They don't like me but ate our son alive when we went to India many years ago. Luckily it didn't have any after effects.


habee profile image

habee 4 years ago from Georgia Author

That's good to hear, HH. We have some trophy-size mosquitoes here!


MILNI 4 years ago

I AM AFRAID OF MOSQUITOES. AND I HATE THEM BUT I .... ......

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