Saturday, August 28, 2010

What Good are Mosquitoes?

What good are mosquitoes? I’ve always asked that. Now, I know they are an important part of the food chain, being consumed by all manner of things such as bats, many birds, and many insects. But when you are being eaten alive by mosquitoes, and becoming part of the food chain yourself, that seems like a fair question.

Alaska is renowned for its mosquitoes. I saw few of them, other than these two, and I was lucky to escape with my life, let me tell you.
But other than that, mosquito season was pretty well past, although I was frequently nibbled on by animals that looked like black flies. They seemed to enjoy the experience far more than I did, although for a few of them, it ended up being their last supper.

But I did learn another purpose for mosquitoes, one that seems quite obviously valuable. At least in the tundra and arctic regions, they are a vital pollinator. The males eat nectar exclusively, and the females eat it except for after they have mated and need blood for their eggs to develop. So in the process of eating nectar, those untold billions of mosquitoes are pollinating all kinds of plants, such as blueberries, cranberries, and soap berries, which are all vital foods for grizzly bears and many other animals. There are bumblebees in Alaska, but I think honeybees are rare or absent – as they seem to be becoming in the lower 48. So the humble and annoying mosquito does serve an additional vital purpose in the web of life, at least in the far north, and I would guess down this way as well. After all, even here, they must be pollinating flowers in their quest for nectar. Maybe in the future, if bees continue to decline, mosquitoes will be vital to our food chain in commercial agriculture – who knows?


  1. That is interesting. I never knew that.
    I'd hate to meet those two!!!

  2. I still don't feel any better about them. I went biking on Assateague a couple of weeks ago and neglected my spray. I was fine while I was moving, but the second I slowed down I was an all you can pierce buffet.

    Thanks for sharing your Alaska photos and experiences.

  3. Sorry, Art, your insights do not endure them to me anymore. I feel my only purpose in OBX this week was to serve as a blood supply to mosquitos the size of seagulls!

  4. Oh yeah, mosquitoes on Assateague and at the OBX are legendary, like Alaskan mosquitoes. And the green head flies on Assateague - I swear they land on you mouth first.