The scourge of summer, in particular, is unrivaled: mosquitoes. Mosquitoes -which are the carriers of the world’s deadliest diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever, and with a total of 3500 different species in nature- seem to do nothing except incurable itching, annoying buzzing at the base of the ear, and irritating rashes on the body. So much so that if we were to rank “devil” among animals, it would seem that mosquitoes would be the clear winner because they have brought the most deaths to humans so far is the mosquito! (of course, in a competition where humans do not exist or are not counted). In fact, many of us say “What would happen if we completely destroyed the mosquitoes because they are the only useless creatures in nature!”. So is it really like that? Are mosquitoes the world’s deadliest animal for humans, or the most useless animals for nature and the ecosystem? Of course, they are not. In order to understand the place of this creature, which has existed on our planet for the past 100 million years, it is necessary to look at its effect on the ecosystem and its relationship with other living things from a much broader perspective. Let’s do this:
First, mosquito larvae live in water and are critical to the aquatic ecosystem. In The Book of Easy Bug Answers, Dr. Gilbert Waldbauer writes that mosquito larvae are creatures that feed by filtering. Thus, they filter and eat particles such as single-celled algae in the water. Many fish cannot normally consume algae directly, but it is vital for the aquatic ecosystem that eats algae and turned it into food in their own bodies for the fish to consume. Excessive algae are prevented in the water, and the mosquito larvae feeding on these algae are almost “packaged” in the mosquito larvae, which will be the food of many fish in the water.
You might think that animals do not eat mosquitoes because they are tiny in size and have blood-filled bellies. You’re wrong since a large number of birds, bats, and spiders eat mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are the main food source for many spiders, and they are critical food sources for creatures at the bottom of the food chain. Even though we hate them and find it difficult to perceive their place in nature, they play an important role in the food chain. According to a study by William Bradshaw, in 1983, the biomass of mosquitoes is almost the same as that of animals in the other order Diptera. This research points to the role of mosquitoes biomass in terms of balance in the ecosystem.
Mosquitoes have evolved into thousands of different species since 100 million years ago. Thus, they led a “blood-feeding parasitic” life, and this is one of the reasons behind their evolutionary success. Destroying the “blood-feeding parasitic” feature would mean taking prey from hunters and pollinators from many plants.
However… Mosquitoes are not keystone species. If today we could develop a bioweapon that would wipe out mosquitoes forever, the entire ecosystem would probably be able to live normally in just a few centuries or millennia. Given the currently available data, it is likely that the ecological balance would not have suffered irreversible damage. In fact, according to some scientists, a mosquito-free life could even be beneficial for the ecosystem at certain points! Steven Juliano, an insect ecologist at Illinois State University, says:
It is very difficult to say that eradicating mosquitoes will do any harm. If we destroy them, probably, there will be only secondary or collateral damage. Medical entomologist Carlos Brisola of the Federal University of Santa Catarina agrees with Marcondes de Juliano:
The thing is for sure: a mosquito-free Earth would be much safer for the human species. The destruction of Anopheles mosquitoes will be of great importance to humanity, we should not be hasty to decide. Since it is predicted that the most severe impact of mosquito extermination will be experienced in the Arctic tundra. Aedes mosquitoes are found so frequently in the tundra that can be seen in many countries from Canada to Russia that they can sometimes become so numerous that they form dark clouds in the sky. Removing this unusually large number of mosquitoes would mean that around 50% of birds with migration routes in these geographic areas would lose an important food source. This can unexpectedly affect some bird populations and cause a chain reaction. However, it should be noted that not every scientist agrees with this view. For example, wildlife biologist Cathy Curby says the mosquitoes in question are not that important to migratory birds. Thus, he states that we think that their importance and number have increased in our eyes just because they are too attracted to people. In other words, we may be doing some sort of selective perception.
In summary, eradicating mosquitoes probably wouldn’t upset the ecosystem, so it wouldn’t cause irreversible damage. However, there is a strange fact that the success of humanity in exterminating the creatures which are key to the ecosystem seems like it is effectless on creatures that do not contribute remarkably to nature for some reason. Perhaps it will be beneficial for all of us to turn our blinding hatred from creatures that are beneficial to the natural system to those that do not benefit much. Entomologist Joe Canlon says:
Mosquitoes do not have an indispensable function in nature. If we were to destroy them completely tomorrow, the ecosystems would be disrupted and immediately return to normal. Of course, mosquitoes can be replaced by something much better or worse; This should not be forgotten either. In an article published in the journal Nature in 2010 on the subject, Dr. Janet Fang says:
It wouldn’t be right to finish our article without looking at the issue from their point of view when we showed mosquitos are not important. Ultimately, mosquitoes such as all living things struggle to survive and reproduce. Since nothing in the universe exists for man, humans don’t even care about mosquitoes. Therefore, the mosquito does not feel sorry for carrying a deadly disease or cannot be seen as a “weak creature” because it causes such a thing. On the other hand, It can be said that it plays a very critical role in keeping the number of human species in evolutionary balance. Thus, we can say that mosquitoes are extremely successful from an evolutionary point of view, as they have successfully adapted to changing conditions for 100 million years and have evolved into thousands of species.