Mosquitoes Get Bug Bites, Too

istock / istock

At the moment, I have six mosquito bites on my right forearm, another one further up on my bicep, another one on my other forearm and two on my left calf. I’m a little itchy, to say the least, but my annoyance is tempered from knowing there’s a little bit of karmic justice in the natural world. Turns out, mosquitoes have their own bloodsucking pest that they have to deal with, a parasitic midge known as Culicoides anopheles.

At Parasite of the Day, Sarah Prammer has the details on a new study in which researchers in China were able to get close-up video footage of one of these midges feeding from a mosquito:

“This particular study took place last year (2013) in Haikou, a populous city in Hainan. An unfortunate cow was used as bait inside a net trap to capture mosquitoes. Upon examining the caught mosquitoes, the researchers noticed that one of them, an Anopheles sinensis specimen, was being parasitised by the midge. This happened again the next day. The researchers chloroformed the animals and videotaped their behaviour underneath a microscope. The midge had pierced the front of the mosquito’s abdomen with a specialised tube-like mouthpart called a proboscis, and its own abdomen increased in size as it stole the stolen blood directly from the mosquito. It was significantly smaller than the host which probably gave it easier access and prevent the mosquito from pulling it off.”

In the video, you’ll notice that the midge seems to struggle a bit to detach, and moves its body into a different position before pulling its face away. The researchers think that it was having a hard time unplugging its proboscis, which attaches securely to the host’s body so that the midge can hang on to and eat from a mosquito, even while it’s flying, for as long as two days. At least mosquitoes don’t do that to us! It almost makes me feel bad for them ... at least until I start itching again.

Tommy Leung