DEC 21, 2017 7:35 AM PST

Mosquitoes: how they suck our blood

We all know the dangers of mosquitoes and the diseases they carry. From malaria to zika to West Nile virus to dengue fever, these mosquito-borne diseases kill hundreds of thousands of people each year. Children and pregnant women are most vulnerable, though I can speak from my own chikungunya experience to say that there's never a fun time to get struck down by a mosquito disease. But how are mosquitoes so adept at what they do? Let's take a closer look.

You may have heard the fact that female mosquitoes are the only ones that bite us. That's because females need the nutrients from our blood to make their eggs. So when a female mosquito is feeling those familiar hunger pains, she uses her proboscis to suck our blood right? Well, yes, but it's a bit more complicated than that.

Mosquitoes actually have 6 needles that they use to get the job done. Two of those needles have tiny saw-like teeth on them, which they use to cut through our skin. These needles are so sharp that you can barely even feel them entering your skin. Two other needles help this process by holding back the skin so that the mosquito can dig deeper to reach your yummy blood. But finding a blood vessel isn't always easy, and that's where one of the other needles comes in: she uses it to probe for hormones that our blood vessels emit naturally. When she finds that treasured blood vessel, she uses the same needle to suck up as much blood as she can hold, while at the same time using the last needle to spit chemicals into us that make the blood flow more easily, and also give us annoying bug bites later. Who knew a mosquito's anatomy was so complex! Want to learn how mosquitoes pass diseases to us? Watch the video!
About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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