July 18, 2012 Do Mosquitoes Have Toes?
I think it bit me on the bottom of my foot!
Those famous words were uttered by Elliot Friedman, in his long battle with Barrow mosquitoes this summer.
When I went on holiday to Thailand 6 years ago, I thought I had my fill of mosquitoes.....until I came here. Until this expedition, I had never associated the Arctic with mosquitoes at all! But these darn things have been flying and biting me every day in the field when it isn't super windy and cold. I'd rather have bitter cold weather than warm, sunny mosquito weather.
So mosquitoes are insects that have been around for more than 30 million years (remember Jurassic Park?) and they have a variety of strategies to find yummy people to bite. For example, mosquitoes have chemical sensors - they can sense the carbon dioxide we breathe out up to 100 feet away. Also, certain chemicals in our perspiration attract mosquitoes (people who don't sweat much don't get bitten as often). Mosquitoes are attracted to clothing whose colors contrasts highly with surroundings. For example, Elliot's black winter jacket compared to the light green and yellow Arctic tundra grasses is a proverbial "Eat Here" sign for mosquitoes. Mosquitoes also have heat sensors to detect warm-blooded animals.
Did you know that only female mosquitoes bite? The female mosquito has a long mouth part called the proboscis for piercing skin. The blood provides proteins that the females need to lay eggs. Females can ingest up to 5 microliters of your blood!
In the battle against mosquitoes, each of my team members came up with a variety of strategies. I used Avon Skin So Soft with minimal results. I counted 11 bites on my worse day. Elliot used an old box to smoosh them to death. And Kim used Alaska's Best, a homemade serum brewed by triplet sisters, and was never bitten once.
And by the way, mosquitoes do not have toes, but they are very leggy!