Travelling to Asia, Central and Latin America may promise adventure; but it also means a likely encounter with the Aedes aegypti mosquito – the delightful carrier of, among other diseases, Dengue Fever and Zika.
But while that may be no surprise, these little critters do have some interesting habits that you may wish we’d never shared. Infectious disease expert Professor Cameron Simmons enlightened us.
1. The females stockpile sperm
That’s right. Female Aedes aegypti mozzies only need to mate once. Once they have, they carry the sperm around for the rest of their life, using it to fertilise their eggs as they lay them on the edge of water filled containers.
2. Their eggs love to hitch a ride on used car tyres
The international trade in used car tyres is transporting more than just burnt rubber; Aedes aegypti love to lay their eggs inside the tyre where water collects. And because the eggs can survive for months, these freeriders are well suited to long sea journeys. At their destination, a good splash of rain is all that is needed for the eggs to hatch.
3. Only the females bite
Like the 3,500 or so other species of mosquito, you only need to watch out for female Aedes aegypti – the males don’t bite. The female needs a blood meal, and all the good nutrients contained within it, to complete the development of her eggs.
4. They are a domesticated mosquito
Aedes aegypti are the cockroaches of the mosquito world – they just love to hang out in our homes and prefer to snack on humans than any other species. Isn’t it nice to be adored?
5. They can become immune to Dengue, Zika and Chikungunya
Researchers at the Peter Doherty Institute in Melbourne have discovered that a naturally occurring bacterium called Wolbachia can protect Aedes aegypti from nasty viruses like Dengue, Zika and Chikungunya, meaning they no longer pass these diseases onto humans.
Some 900,000 people worldwide are already living with Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes, and the program is continuing to roll out internationally.
Banner image: Tom / Flickr