The Mosquito Conundrum

Summer is in full swing in South Africaand this summer evening I simply can’t seem to fall asleep. While the rest ofJohannesburgeither falls into a stupefied slumber or drifts off to the land of nod, depending on preference, I’m unable to close my eyes and let the gently soothing night sounds of the African Highveld lull me into pillow drooling oblivion.

The reason is mosquitoes, and not for the reason that you might think. I’m having issues with mosquitoes and Darwin’s theory of natural selection, never let it be said that I let bedtime thought descend to the level of the mundane.

You see I simply can’t fathom how or why a living organism that should rely on stealth for its sustenance should make such an irritating noise. Surely if your purpose is to land undetected and fill your abdomen with tasty hemoglobin nature would by now have ensured that you do it with as little disturbance to the unwilling donor as possible. Having your victim thrash about as though in the throes of an epileptic fit would make the whole process not only complicated, but messy for all parties involved and potentially lethal for yourself.

A serious design flaw

By rights this approach should have consigned mosquitoes to the cupboard behind the door of evolution that’s labeled ‘must try harder’ by now.

Many of the good lords’ creations like rattlesnakes and mothers in law make an irritating noise but most of these make a racket for reasons that enhance their survival potential by driving off other organisms that could do them harm.

Other blood drinkers try to be as stealthy as possible, the Vampire Bat for instance lands some distance away from its intended victim and sort of shuffles up to it before sinking its teeth in for a midnight snack. Although light sleepers will never hit the snooze button again after seeing one of these beasties sidle up like an arthritic nightmare. So even this approach has the potential to reduce the pool of alert available human victims.

I think, on second thought, that I'd prefer the risk of Malaria

However, back to the pondering on planet sleepless.

I just don’t know why a mosquito makes this irritating sound. Having someone try to hit you with a pillow or a shoe night after night just doesn’t make sense as a survival enhancing mechanism.

Scientists have found ancient mosquitoes frozen in lumps of solidified tree resin (the oldest found so far was in a lump of 79 million year old Canadian amber, don’t ever say that visiting this blog doesn’t further your education) so they’ve been around for some time. They’ve fed off dinosaurs and caused Neanderthals sleepless nights so there must surely be a reason for that annoying whine. Some research has indicated that it attracts mates, I’ve certainly met women like that.

This theory does have some holes in it (mosquito, holes, you see what I did there), seeing as the male mosquito feeds on plant nectar, doesn’t usually stay up after eight PM and wouldn’t be seen dead in a strangers bedroom.

A mystery then, part of this rich and sometimes annoying tapestry of life provided courtesy of Mother Nature at her most pre menstrual.


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