The Salt Life: Animal vs. Human (by Jack)

IMG_1401           Perhaps the most publicized animal vs. human Florida stories involve alligator or shark attacks. These creatures are rather large, their presence is difficult to detect, and they can attack quickly. The media like to report about these attacks because of their dramatic nature. But actually they infrequently kill humans. On average only ten people per year die as a result of a shark attack world-wide and since 1948 only 23 people have died as a result of alligator attacks. So what is the animal that kills the most humans? Well, strangely enough it is the six-legged, quadruple-winged blood-sucking mosquito.

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Other than our own species (homo sapien) which kills on average 425,000 other humans very year the mosquito kills anywhere between 750,000 and 1 million humans a year. Its killing technique differs from animals such as the shark, the alligator, or even venomous snakes (of which Florida has many). There aren’t many credible reports of mosquitoes actually draining people of their blood—for an average sized human and average thirsty mosquitoes it would take about 400,000 bites to drain a person of enough blood to kill them. That’s unlikely to happen even on “Naked and Afraid.”

Mosquitoes are much trickier; they kill humans by transmitting nasty diseases such as malaria, dengue, West Nile virus, chikungunya, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, Saint Louis encephalitis, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, and La Crosse encephalitis (don’t know why we don’t have a Sarasota encephalitis). What makes it even more unfair is that these flying monsters transmit diseases while being unaffected by those diseases themselves.

Right now in Florida the largest mosquito concern focuses on the aedes asgypti (aa) species, because it’s the one that transmits Zika.

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Sign at SRQ airport

It helps to know your enemy, so here is some information about little “aa’s” behavior. At the risk of being called sexist I need to say right off the bat that it is only the female mosquitoes that we should be concerned with. The girls go for your blood in order to provide food for their eggs. I don’t know exactly what the guys do while their girlfriends are out biting people, but the guys aren’t the problem. The aa is an urban mosquito—it lays its eggs and the larva grow in small amounts of water (they love discarded car tires and the infamous Florida bromeliad). Being urban insects they don’t travel much, usually no more than ½ mile from home in their entire lifetime (which only lasts about 2 months) and they fly slow and low. If you’re thinking about hiding from them consider stopping breathing (they smell carbon dioxide) and sweating (they smell that too) and don’t wear dark clothes (it holds heat which they can also sense).

It seems as if it will be difficult to hide from them, so how about killing them? A war on mosquito terror!

Environmentalists are, of course, always concerned about “unnaturally” disrupting the ecosystem. But, there seems to be no research that indicates that mosquitoes are beneficial for much of anything. Apparently they do pollinate a few flowers, but lot of other insects perform that same function. So why not declare an all out war of the ‘lil monsters and aim for eradication of the enemy?

Trying to be sensitive about the environment I looked into using natural predators against them. However, it appears that the only predators that seem to use them as a major source of food are dragonflies and a fish appropriately called the mosquitofish. Dragonflies are hard to domesticate and control and, although mosquitofish are given free of charge to people with ponds in California, there is no research that shows that they actually have much of an impact on the mosquito population. In addition, the mosquitofish is cannibalistic, further undermining its ability to wage a war on what should be the real enemy.

But lo and behold, there are some people who are defenders of the mostly deadly animal to humans. For instance, Dr. Fazale Rana, who’s a member of a group that calls itself “Reasons to Believe” argues that “[e]very mosquito bite ought to be a reminder to obey God.” According to the good doctor Adam and Eve were not bothered by disease or deadly animals until they disobeyed God. Dr. Rana goes further and claims that it’s actually beneficial that mosquitoes kill so many people because it is God’s way of controlling population growth. “While the population might become healthier, its numbers would swell and overpopulation would eventually become a concern. Overpopulation then leads . . . to suffering.”

So the next time you think about swatting that pesky mosquito that’s draining you of your bodily fluids think about Eve, admit that you are a sinner, and smash that ‘lil monster!

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