Malarial mosquito

The malarial mosquito is the most dangerous representative of the mosquito family and the hero of various frightening stories. It lives in many countries and is able to carry not only allergens, but also malaria, which causes the death of up to half a million people annually. In our latitudes, many do not know what this creature with a tarnished reputation looks like, and often mistake a harmless centipede mosquito for malaria, while it is absolutely harmless to humans.

Photo: Malaria mosquito

Malaria mosquito — a two-winged insect, an obligate bloodsucker from the long-whiskered suborder, which is a carrier of malarial plasmodia, which are considered the most dangerous parasites for humans. The Latin name of this arthropod species — anopheles, which translates as – harmful, useless. There are 400 varieties of anopheles, many of which are capable of carrying malaria, as well as being the main host for a number of other dangerous parasites.

Video: Malaria mosquito

Several fossil varieties are known from Oligocene deposits and Dominican amber. Some historians believe that malaria was the main cause of the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century. In those days, epidemics broke out in the coastal regions of Italy. The drainage of numerous swamps, the laying of new roads turned out to be almost constantly brutal malaria for the inhabitants of Rome. Hippocrates also described the symptoms of this disease and associated the onset of malaria epidemics with natural conditions.

An interesting fact: Malarial mosquitoes look at the world through the prism of infrared rays, therefore they are able to find warm-blooded animals, people even in pitch darkness. In search of an object to receive a portion of food – blood, these arthropods can fly over distances of up to 60 kilometers.

Appearance and features

h2>Photo: What a malaria mosquito looks like

Photo: What a malaria mosquito looks like

This dangerous representative of the mosquito family has an oval-shaped body, the length of which can reach 10 mm. The eyes of the malarial mosquito are scalloped, consisting of a huge number of ommadityas. The wings of the insect are oval, strongly elongated, have many veins and two brown spots. The mosquito abdomen consists of a dozen segments, the last two of which are the outer part of the genital apparatus. Antennae and antennae located on a small head serve for touch, smell recognition. The mosquito has three pairs of legs, halteres attached to the chest.

The mouth of an arthropod is a real piercing and cutting tool. The lower lip of the mosquito is a thin tube that serves as a support for sharp stylets. With the help of two pairs of jaws, the arthropod very quickly breaks the integrity of the victim's skin and sucks blood through the tube of the lower lip. In males, due to the peculiarity of their diet, the stabbing apparatus is atrophied.

Even an ordinary person, knowing some features, can visually determine whether he is in front of a carrier of dangerous parasites or an ordinary squeaker mosquito.

Distinguishing features:

  • in dangerous insects, the hind legs are much longer than the front ones, while in ordinary mosquitoes they are the same;
  • the back of the anopheles body is raised, and the squeakers are located strictly parallel to the surface.

Scientists identify a number of differences that can only be noticed upon closer examination by a specialist:

  • Anopheles wings have scales and are covered with brown spots;
  • the length of the whiskers located next to the lower lip , malarial mosquitoes have more than ordinary members of the mosquito family.

Individuals living in hot countries are distinguished by a light color and small size, in cool areas there are dark brown mosquitoes with a larger body. The larvae of different Anopheles species also differ in color and size.

Interesting fact: Before committing a bite, the malarial mosquito performs movements similar to a kind of dance.

Now you know what a malaria mosquito looks like. Let's see where it lives.

Where does the malaria mosquito live?

Photo: Malaria mosquito in Russia

Photo: Malaria mosquito in Russia Russia

Anopheles are adapted to life on almost all continents, with the exception of regions with a very cold climate. Ten species of malarial mosquitoes live in Russia, half of which are found in the central part of the country. It is believed that from the point of view of the spread of malaria, they are not dangerous, since we do not have outbreaks of malaria, but these creatures can carry other rather serious diseases. The most resistant species of Anopheles also lives on the territory of Russia, which survives in the taiga under such conditions when even malaria pathogens are not able to exist.

The most dangerous for humans are the Indian species and the group of African anopheles, which live in the tropics. They feel comfortable at high temperatures. For settlement, they choose places near various water bodies, including swamps, which are necessary for females to lay eggs and are rich in microorganisms for feeding offspring.

About 90 percent of malaria cases and deaths occur in Africa. Near the Sahara, the most severe form of this disease is found – tropical malaria, which leaves practically no chance of survival. Even in countries where malaria pathogens are absent, cases of imported malaria are quite often recorded, and a third of them end in the death of the patient.

Interesting fact: Plasmodium are unicellular organisms, some of their species cause insidious malaria. The life cycle of Plasmodium has two hosts: a mosquito and a vertebrate. They can parasitize rodents, humans, reptiles and birds.

What does the malaria mosquito eat?

Photo: Large malaria mosquito

Photo: Large malaria mosquito

The females of these insects feed on blood, but not constantly, for example, after laying eggs, they switch to flower nectar, and this period is the safest for potential victims of a blood-sucking insect. Males never feed on blood, they prefer the same nectar of flowering plants. Having bitten a person with malaria, anopheles becomes its carrier. For parasites, the mosquito is the main host, and the vertebrate is only an intermediate one.

Anopheles may overwinter as fertilized females. Inside the female, the malarial Plasmodium cannot survive the winter, so the first mosquitoes after winter do not carry malaria. In order for a female malaria mosquito to be able to infect again, she needs to drink the blood of a malaria patient and then live for a couple of weeks for the parasites to form inside her. In the conditions of Russia, this is unlikely, moreover, more than half of the females die within four days after being bitten by an infected with malaria.

An interesting fact: Anopheles makes about 600 flapping wings in one second, which are perceived by a person as a squeak. The sound made during the flight of males and females differs in height, adults also squeak more low than juveniles. The flight speed of the malarial mosquito exceeds more than 3 km per hour.

Character and lifestyle features

 Photo: Malaria mosquito bite

Photo: Malaria mosquito bite

Malaria mosquitoes are mainly active at night. To search for food, females do not need sunlight at all – they quickly find an object to attack even in the dark, focusing on infrared rays from the victim's body. Like all mosquitoes, they are very intrusive and do not lag behind for a long time until they do their job.

Anopheles is distinguished by endurance and great mobility. He is able to fly many kilometers without landing and rest. Large flights are mainly made by females in search of food, in this case they are capable of impressive forced marches of tens of kilometers. Males, on the other hand, spend almost their entire lives in one place, most often on lawns with a large number of flowering plants.

In countries where there is a humid tropical climate, they are active all year round. In other habitats, individuals born in late summer and surviving hibernate until spring. To do this, they choose secluded places, they can even meet in human dwellings. With the first warmth they wake up. The average lifespan of a malarial mosquito is about 50 days.

There are a number of factors that can increase or shorten this lifespan:

  • air temperature. The lower it is, the longer mosquitoes live;
  • with a lack of food, insects live longer;
  • a sharp change in climate also shortens the life of anopheles.

It has been noted that the life cycle of malaria mosquitoes living in forest areas is much shorter, since it is very difficult for a female to find food in such conditions.

Social structure and reproduction

Photo: Ural malaria mosquito

Photo: Ural malarial mosquito

The development of Anopheles is the same as that of ordinary peeping mosquitoes and has the following stages:

  • egg stage;
  • larvae;
  • pupa;
  • adults.

The first three pass through the water, lasting from six days to a couple of weeks. If eggs are laid in a swampy reservoir, then the development period is shorter, since there is more food there and lasts from a week to two. Elevated water and air temperatures also affect the rate of development.

Among malarial mosquitoes, sexual dimorphism is observed, as well as heterosexual individuals have a different structure of the genital organs. Copulation occurs during swarming on the fly. The eggs mature inside the female within 2 to 20 days depending on the climate. The most optimal temperature is 25-30 degrees – with it, ripening occurs in 2-3 days. After maturation is completed, female malarial mosquitoes rush to water bodies to lay eggs. Laying is carried out in several approaches, the total number of eggs can reach 500 pieces.

After a few days, the eggs hatch into larvae. At the fourth stage of maturation, the larva molts and forms into a pupa, which do not feed in any way during the entire period of their existence. The pupae are attached to the surface of the water, are able to make active movements and sink to the bottom of the reservoir if they are disturbed. The young are in the pupal phase for about two days, and then adults emerge from them. It is noticed that the process of development of males is faster. In a day, adults are ready for breeding.

Natural enemies of malaria mosquitoes

Photo: What a malaria mosquito looks like

Photo: What a malaria mosquito looks like

Anopheles has a lot of enemies, they are destroyed by leeches, snails, various worms, all aquatic insects. Mosquito larvae, being the favorite food of frogs and fish, die in huge numbers before reaching the next stage of their development. Do not disdain them and birds that live on the surface of the water. There are some plant species that also prey on adults, but they are found in the tropics.

Due to the danger posed by malarial mosquitoes, in all countries where malaria outbreaks are observed, special attention is paid to their destruction. This is done most often with the help of chemicals that treat their places of accumulation. Scientists are looking for the most effective way to deal with anopheles. Even genetic engineers are getting involved in solving this serious problem, since many species of malaria mosquitoes have already adapted to the chemicals used against them and multiply at a terrifying rate.

Interesting fact: Through a genetically modified fungus, scientists were able to destroy almost the entire population of Anopheles under experimental conditions. The modified fungus manages to destroy adult insects even before they have produced their numerous offspring.

Population and species status

Photo: Malaria mosquito

Photo: Malaria mosquito

Due to phenomenal fecundity, the ability to survive even in extremely unfavorable conditions for insects, the status of the Anopheles species is stable, even despite the huge number of natural enemies in their habitats. The situation may change somewhat in the near future, when the newest genetic weapon will be launched into the fight against these bloodsuckers. With the use of old methods of combating malarial mosquitoes, their population is restored in a short time, again claiming hundreds of thousands of human lives. The word “anopheles” is not in vain translated as useless or harmful, since these creatures do not carry any benefit, only causing great harm.

After the elimination of malaria in the USSR in the middle of the 20th century, all of Russia was outside the range of malaria . In subsequent years, only imported cases of all types of malaria from other territories were recorded. In the 90s, due to the huge migration of the population and the lack of sufficient funds to combat malaria, there was a surge in the incidence throughout the post-Soviet space. Later, this disease was imported from Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, where malaria epidemics occurred several times. Today the situation is favorable.

Despite the fact that the malarial mosquito mainly lives in hot countries, everyone should know what danger it poses, how to effectively protect themselves from it. There are several reasons for this: firstly, due to climate change, these insects settle in more and more new territories and may soon appear in the most unexpected places, and secondly, tourism to exotic countries is developing more and more actively every year.

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