Here we have another small insect which, like the house fly, is extremely dangerous, due to its ability to carry the germs of disease. There are hundreds of species of mosquitoes, some small, some large. The majority of these are unable to carry disease so far as we know at present, but they should be avoided as dangerous. The Missouri forms which carry disease are the so-called malarial fever mosquitoes, and they are entirely responsible for the transmission of this sapping and often fatal disease. In the warm countries these are more abundant and the fever is more fatal. In the south there is still another disease-carrying mosquito, the yellow fever mosquito. This form is most dangerous of all.
The mosquito first bites a patient suffering with malaria and in this way it takes in germs along with the blood which it sucks from the patient. After these germs pass through stages of development in the body of the mosquito they are ready to be injected back into a healthy person where, in due time, they cause the disease. The germs feed inside the red blood corpuscles and at regular intervals they destroy a large number of these causing a chill which is followed by fever and a new supply of corpuscles is produced. This alternation of chill and fever may continue all summer, if medicine is not taken to destroy the germs. Quinine will kill the germs if it is taken so that plenty of it is in the blood when the germs come out of the torn down corpuscles during a chill.
In order to prevent malarial fever, get rid of the mosquitoes by draining and oiling the breeding places, escape their bites by screening houses, smudging and destroying the adults, and keep the mosquitoes from patients who have the fever. This is almost as important as the destruction of the mosquitoes. The malarial fever mosquitoes are as harmless as our common forms so long as they do not become infected with germs by sucking blood from a fever patient.
Mosquitoes in position for biting; a, common Culex mosquito; b, malarial fever mosquito. Note that the one stands parallel, while the other stands at an angle to the surface on which it rests.
In view of the fact that most of our common mosquitoes are classed as non-dangerous, it is of interest to know just how to distinguish the harmless ones from the dangerous. The adults of the two forms can be easily distinguished when they are seen at rest. The common forms always rest with the body parallel to the surface on which they rest, while the malarial form always elevates the end of the body so that the head is pointed toward the surface on which it rests. In like manner the wigglers can be distinguished from each other. Our common wigglers always hang head downward in the water while those of the malarial mosquitoes rest near the surface of the water with their bodies parallel to it. The majority of the wigglers found in rain barrels are of our common forms.
Common Culex mosquito showing stages of development; a, raft of eggs; b, larvæ or wigglers of different sizes; c, pupa; d, mosquito. The large wiggler and the pupa are taking air from the surface of the water through their breathing tubes.
The life of the mosquito is quite interesting and is an excellent example of an insect which lives in the water part of its life and in the air the rest. The mature female mosquito, which does all the biting, searches for water in rain barrels, cans, ditches, ponds, and stagnant swamps where she lays her eggs either in raft-shaped packets or singly. When the wigglers hatch they swim about in the water and feed upon decaying material and microscopic water plants. When the wiggler is full grown it changes to an active pupa which has a large head and a slender tail and is more or less coiled. A little later the winged mosquito escapes. In the rural districts most of the mosquitoes breed in stagnant ponds, swamps and rain barrels and from these they fly to the home where they cause trouble. Such places should be drained or protected with oil or other means to prevent the mosquito from using them for breeding purposes. Ponds can be freed of the wigglers by introducing fish or by using a small amount of coal oil on the surface. The wigglers have a breathing tube which is thrust out above the water when fresh air is needed and if there is a thin film of oil on the water this is prevented. Rain barrels can be freed of the pest in this way also, or perhaps better by covering them with a cloth. The mosquitoes are most troublesome about the home at night. When one sits out doors he should keep a smudge going to drive them away while screens will keep them out of the house at night.
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