Yes, mosquitoes actually have importance

Mosquitoes aren't so bad
Photo courtesy of Sharon Milligan

Mosquitoes are not as bad as we all think. There, I have said it! Let the groans and hissing commence. But, seriously, here is my attempt to enlighten you about how they do have a positive role in our world – and hopefully, keep me from further abuse.

Yes, mosquito bites hurt and itch, and if you are unlucky, their saliva can pass on any number of serious and, at times, life-threatening diseases. However, our disdain for the actions of the adult stage of these insects mask the more positive benefits that their larvae and even the adults contribute to the ecosystems where they live. Here goes nothing.

When they are not sucking blood, female mosquitoes (the ones that do bite) and the non-biting males are important pollinators of many kinds of plants. They feed spiders, dragonflies, damselflies, and many other predatory insects – many that we do like. Hummingbirds, purple martins, various species of swifts, and flycatchers also eat them and feed them to their young.

The aquatic larvae are important food items for many organisms like fish, salamanders, the larvae of dragonflies and damselflies, and many other predators in the water bodies they share. The Mosquito Fish, Gambusia affinis, has been used to manage the larvae for this very reason.

In short, mosquitoes are significant elements of the aquatic food chain wherever they live. Without them, these systems would not be as productive. Their main role in these systems is capturing the energy of the detritus (the tiny bits and pieces of organic matter) and algae that they consume and turning it into the organisms that consume them, through any number of steps, including those fish we all like to catch and eat. Remember that the next time you reel in that big sunfish or bass that relied on mosquitoes to grow.

We certainly abhor them as pesky adults, but that does not mean they have no value to our natural world. And despite our efforts, they persist and are here to stay. We frankly help them along with containers full of rainwater around our homes. We surely must protect ourselves from the harm they can inflict.

Begrudge me if you will, but someone had to say it – mosquitoes are not so bad! They have value, whether we like it or not.

Hope to see you in our great outdoors!

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Written by Mark W. LaSalle, Ph.D.

Mark is a naturalist and wetland ecologist, providing expertise on wetlands, water quality and environmental impacts of humans. He has also developed and conducted a number of environmental education programs and workshops for youth, teachers, realtors, and the general public on a variety of subjects including wetlands, natural history, and environmental landscaping. Mark is a graduate of the University of Southwestern Louisiana (B.S. and M.S. degrees) and Mississippi State University (Ph.D.). Mark is the recipient of the Chevron Conservation Award, the Mississippi Wildlife Federation Conservation Educator Award, the Gulf Guardian Award, and the Boy Scouts of America Silver Beaver Award.

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