Sunday, August 12, 2012

Maternal instincts can be maddening!


Unfortunately, the height of the summer holiday season coincides with the peak period for mosquitoes in this part of the world.
If you find yourself lying in bed wide awake one night listening to a buzzing sound, you may like to ponder the following.
The troublemakers are all females. Only female mosquitoes bite. They suck blood. The males feed only on plant nectar. They have no interest in blood.
The bloodsuckers prefer some people to others. It depends on how sweet smelling your sweat is. Victims are attacked with a skin-piercing proboscis (if you will forgive the technical term). Ingested blood provides protein for the mosquito’s eggs.
The trouble is that during this piercing proboscis procedure, mosquitoes are liable to pass on diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, filariasis and dengue.
While males are harmless, female mosquitoes are the most dangerous creatures on the planet. Each year they infect around 700 million people, as well as many other animals, some of them fatally.
But don’t let any of this unduly worry you as you lie awake at night listening to a buzzing sound. Of the 3,500 or so species of mosquitoes in the world, none of those found in Portugal are lethal or even dangerous. 
Malaria was present in Portugal until the 1950s but it was then eradicated. Resurgence, in tandem with global warming, is possible but the likelihood of this anytime soon is considered low. For now at least, mosquitoes in Portugal are just a bloody nuisance.
You can curse them, but you also have to admire them. For sheer determination, persistence and efficiency they have no equal. Despite the serried ranks of human fortifications in the shape of window screens, hanging nets, electric plug-in devices, insecticide coils, aerosol sprays and repellent creams, female mozzies carry on doing what they do best.
They have had plenty of practice. The fossil record shows that mozzies have been around for at least 50 million years. If we were to stretch that a little bit, we see that they may have cohabited with the dinosaurs. Could it be that the humble mosquito was responsible for the demise of the dinosaurs? Just another thought as you are lying awake.
          No mozzies have yet been found on Mars but they certainly feel totally at home here on earth, especially just after the sun goes down on warm starry evenings.
As you are enjoying a gin and tonic or a glass of wine on the terrace, the maternal mozzies are out and about in search of blood while their mates are innocently sipping fruit juice. What a life, eh!

1 comment:

  1. There's a lovely, inspirational saying that comes to mind here, apparently from the Dali Lama (XIV): "If you think you're too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito".

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