How mosquitos also do good
Mosquitos are deadly pests. But they also pollinate plants, clean water and may even help us treat human conditions.
Kill 'em all?
We can't kill all the mosquitos. There are thousands of species. And only a few hundred of those spread debilitating, sometimes fatal, diseases for humans and other animals — malaria, Zika, dengue, yellow fever, chikungunya, West Nile virus. But that's just the female of those species. The rest bring us potential benefits for the global ecosystem and life in general, including medical research.
Pests but also pollinators
Female mosquitos suck blood for the protein, which they need to lay their eggs and to reproduce. That's why they bite or sting humans and other animals — they are possibly more of a pest to horses, cattle and birds. But, generally, mosquitos feed on nectar for their energy. They help pollinate flowers, often aquatic plants, because that's where they spend a lot of time, such as for breeding.
Eat or get eaten
Sure, we have our defenses against mosquitos — a quick reaction and a slap or chemical repellents, but nature is also at our side. Mosquitos are an important source of food for birds, bats, fish, frogs, dragonflies and spiders. Environmentalists say our ecosystem depends on mosquitos and that these animals would disappear if we eradicated them. However, mozzies hardly make up their entire diet.
When mosquitos "bite," they stick a syringe-like mouth (a "proboscis") into the skin and inject saliva. That stops the blood from clotting as they suck it up. Researchers say both are good for human medicine. The proboscis has helped design better needles (less painful injections) and the saliva, which contains a protein called anopheline, may lead to new treatments for deep vein thrombosis.
The good, the bad and the larvae
Mosquitos lay larvae in still water. We give them these breeding grounds for free, often through neglect. But larvae do also "clean" water by eating biological waste, including other parasites. It doesn't make it safe for drinking, but it makes you wonder what else mozzies could be good for: If they're attracted to the carbon dioxide we exhale, could they also be a useful indicator of pollution?