It's no surprise to many of us that mosquitoes are the deadliest creatures on Earth, but the sheer death toll they cause can still be a little unnerving. Every year almost 250 million people around the world are infected with malaria, and almost 1 million of the infected will die. Most are children under the age of 5. In addition to malaria, mosquitoes also transmit other diseases to humans and animals, including Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever, West Nile Virus and a variety of encephalitis diseases. These diseases are so deadly that many anti mosquito proponents have begun discussing eradication as a mosquito control option. But wouldn't our ecosystems crumble if mosquitoes weren't there to... what is it that they do again? Scientists and experts on how to get rid of mosquitoes have been asked this question and their surprises may shock you. There are more than 3,500 known species of mosquitoes on the planet right now. Among this number, only a couple hundred species are pests to humans.
Mosquitoes have been on this planet for more than 100 million years, and they've co-evolved with many species during that time. Oddly enough in a creature that's been on Earth so long, they really don't seem to perform any essential task that couldn't be filled by another. Even experts who believe that forcing a genus of mosquito into extinction (like the malaria-carrying Anopheles) would leave a predator without prey to rely on for sustenance, even they agree that another organism would probably be selected to fill that niche. Organic pest control experts believe that the benefits of killing off the Anopheles genus would far outweigh any risks in this situation. Some go as far as to say that a world without mosquitoes would be one that is more secure for humans.
Entomologist Carlos Brisola Marcondes from the Federal University of Santa Catarina in Brazil agrees, "The elimination of Anopheles would be very significant for mankind." While mosquitoes are a food source for a variety of frogs, spiders, lizards and insects, many scientists believe that getting rid of flies in the mosquito family would only be a mere bump in the road to eradication. Mosquitoes do not provide the bulk of any creature's diet, so it doesn't seem as if losing them would cause a real hardship. Proponents of eradication believe that there's simply not enough evidence of ecosystem disruption to justify allowing these killers to remain on our planet. If there were any sort of ecosystem service provided my mosquitoes then a stronger case could be made for saving them. Rutgers University ecologist Dina Fonseca says that no-see-ums are a great example of an obnoxious insect that actually provides a beneficial service.
These tiny creatures actually pollinate tropical crops like cacao. So, in essence, a world without midges would mean a world without chocolate. This is why pest control products instead of eradication methods are recommended for controlling most insects. While male mosquitoes perform limited acts of pollination, there's no scientific evidence that shows they pollinate any crops that are depended upon by humans. Scientists, as well as mosquito and fly control experts agree: If mosquitoes provided a benefit, man would have learned a long time ago how to exploit it for our own gain. There is only one benefit that mosquitoes provide our ecosystem: they curtail the human population. Without them, there would be significantly more people living on the planet than there are right now. Areas in sub-Saharan Africa, where mosquito-borne illnesses account for 1.3% of the GDP sending, would have finances for other areas if they weren't required to spend vast amounts of money on extermination. We humans inadvertently drive all manner of beneficial species into extinction, yet we find ourselves unable to rid the world of one we would genuinely benefit from eradicating- the mosquito.
In the meantime, the experts agree that we will continue to deal with mosquitoes for some time to come. At this point in time, we just don't have the resources necessary to get rid of mosquitoes once and for all. Until we do, the best plan is to reduce mosquito breeding areas on your property and to always cover up with a good mosquito repellent before heading out of doors. One day we may live in a world without mosquitoes, but until then it's best to avoid them as much as possible.
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