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Mosquitoes - Ministers of Death
They are the bane of my warmer weather existence, for when their season is upon us, my perfume of choice and necessity begins and ends with "Deet." No expensive sweet smelling perfumes for this lady -- this is serious business, for one mosquito bite and I'll have an allergic reaction that will last for weeks.
With the warmer weather nearly upon us, people like me, will soon be asking themselves and others, why such pests as flies and mosquitoes were ever made. Nature never apologizes, is never penitent, never pitiful to the incompetent. Her ancient plan was to endow various orders of life in various ways.
She has expended the nicest care over the equipment of a mosquito, which carries the seeds of death into human blood. However, she has fostered the human skull a brain which, rightly directed, enables us to avert this peril that flies -- maybe -- if we are diligent and alert and able.
I was thinking about what I was taught about deadly insects as a child. It went a lot like this:
"Not all mosquitoes are deadly. We have many species which inject a mild poison into our blood to inflame, but not to destroy. The mosquito which does kill is only the means, not the cause. It is itself the victim of a parasite, and that parasite is the instrument of destruction.
The insects which we fear most are harmful, but by attention to hygiene and by the employment of proper means, we can make our lives secure at home, and little by little as civilization advances, we can carry the same methods into the wild and make them also safe for human life.
Ice and snow, chilling rains, and bitter winds were in the world when we came into it. Fire and flood, ragging torrents, and deep, swift seas were there also to burn or drown us. Our ancestors learned to control or to manage these forces and reduce them to our service. The insect problem is no more difficult.
We can seek out the death dealing mosquito and defy its ravages. We can even make the malarial enemy bite to our advantage. For we are told that inoculation, in a mild form by the malaria carrying mosquito is beneficial in general paralysis of the the insane."
Upon hearing that, all I could think about was "Well, the teacher was either grossly misinformed or this was another fairytale."
We'll never fully contain and control nature. Fires, floods, earthquakes, raging torrents, and swift seas will be foes that mankind may cope with, struggle to survive, only to know that they can come again at any time. We'll also never completely wipe out the mosquitoes in certain warmer parts of the world, largely due to two factors:
- Annual rainy seasons coupled with hotter weather
- The lost of certain bird species that kept mosquitoes in check by eating them
The Truth About Mosquitoes
Not all mosquitoes are ministers of death. Unless they are themselves infected, they cannot transmit disease to us. The germs of malarial and of yellow fever, of which mosquitoes are the carriers, are parasites which pass one stage of their lives in the blood and stomach of the mosquito, and the other stage in the blood of man or other mammals.
We cannot suppose that mosquitoes thrive on their infection. They would be better without it. They themselves are victims, and victimize us in turn. As a fact, we have more than one species of the Anopheles mosquitoes, the malarial ones, in our country. However, they are almost entirely harmless, save for their irritating bites, unless a person or animal affected with malaria chances to be bitten by them.
If that happens, the parasite passes from the blood of the man into the body of the mosquito, multiplies there, and is passed on into the system of the next person bitten. That man, thus becomes a carrier of the affliction, and can infect numerous other mosquitoes. All of them, when they drink their succeeding meals of blood from new human victims, continuing to spread the disease.
The Tale of Malaria
Malaria itself tells the tale of the old belief as to the cause of the disease, which it describes. Men thought that marsh air was bad to breathe and that it was this air which brought malaria. The word malaria means simply "bad air" as a fact, however, air had nothing to do with the matter.
The tracking down of the germs of malaria and yellow fever is a triumph of our own time, yet sadly still a curse that has yet to be eliminated from many places in the world.
Cleanliness as the Great Enemy of Disease
It was the water, the marshes, the sodden banks of rivers and lakes, the puddles and muddy pools of filthy cities and villages, that were the breeding places of the fatal mosquitoes.
Malaria and mosquitoes vanished together from a place when cleanliness took the place of neglect and bog was converted into dry land. Apparently, the supply of malarial parasites died out in many places in our country. There are many areas where no malaria has been known for a long time.
The mosquitoes living there are innocent of harm if uninfected from external sources. Though harmless, they are as irritating as any other insect can be.
The building of the Panama Canal was one of the greatest engineering achievements the world had seen at the time. The conquest of the little mosquito which had so long kept it back, was a performance of even greater importance. That conquest has its effect in every tropical land to which civilization spreads. Beat the mosquito with cleanliness and common prudence, and the tropics can become health resorts, where formerly man was doomed.
That fact, brings us to what few know about mosquitoes -- what did mosquitoes here do for their blood supply before man appeared in Americas? They lived on the blood of mammals in part, but also lived as vegetarians, as some scientific evidence from pre-historic times suggests.
Mosquitoes - Insects That Took A Wrong Turn As They Evolved
If the dreaded mosquitoes were once vegetarians, and are still in part vegetarians -- they must always have been is the main belief. It is reasonable to assume that the same rule governed the appetite of the ancient mosquito.
Another scientific belief has led science to also believe that the bacteria now so deadly to other forms of life, were once equally harmless, and lived lives of innocence.
Certainly Something to Think About If True
It this is true, then how foolish it is to blame Nature for her insect children. They do harm, but they are simply fresh examples of groups of life which have taken what seems to us the wrong turning. An example would be, the kea parrot, which became the murderer of sheep, and the gull, which has turned inland from the stormy sea to garner into its crop the grain that man hoped to harvest for himself.