Thursday, October 8, 2009

Last of the Summer Whines

Ever had the experience where you get into bed, turn the light out, lay awake for a few minutes then pick up a high-pitched whining in the room – which can only be a mosquito? There’s no alternative but to get up and catch it, because there’s no possibility of going back to sleep in the knowledge that you might become a victim of one of these dipteran Draculas. So having caught it, I thought I’d have a quick look at it under the microscope – and it turned out to be an object of great beauty (double-click images for a better view).

The first thing that strikes you about a mosquito under the microscope is its wonderful eyes, sparkling with a kaleidoscope of iridescent colours, that provide wrap-around vision that’s even more complete than in dragonflies (seen above from above and below from below).

Then there are the antennae. This is a female (and therefore a blood-feeder – the males feed on plant juices), identifiable by those radio aerial-like antennae, which are bushier in males. Mosquitoes find their prey by vision, heat sensing, carbon dioxide sensing and scent, so if you are alive and breathing they’ll find you, even with the light out.

Then, of course, there’s that stiletto-like proboscis........

Seen here (above) in victim’s-eye view

With the lights going on earlier every night, more mosquitoes find their way into houses at this time of year – until the first frosts kill them off. I guess it’s one of the perils of having a garden pond that they can breed in, although water in a forgotten bucket in the corner of a yard will suit them just as well.

I’m not certain of the identify of this species but I think it’s Culex pipiens which according to Keith Snow’s Mosquitoes (Richmond Publishing Naturalists’ Handbooks No. 14) ‘feeds almost exclusively on birds’. So, maybe if I sleep with the budgie in the bedroom I’ll be OK..... although he adds, reassuringly, that adults hatching at this time of year feed exclusively on plant juices and enter buildings only to hibernate. That’s alright then. The budgie can relax.


  1. Just the thing to bring a smile first thing in the morning.

    Let the budgie sing on, well chortle at least.

  2. Marvellous! I'm sure David Attenborough once described the mosquito as a 'thing of wonder so often crushed beneath a thumb'. How true, if he did.

  3. They are incredibly beautiful.

  4. Hi Adrian, they look like wonderfully intricate machines, don't they...?


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