Thursday, 28 October 2010

Food for Thought - Mosquitoes 101

I've been on the go a bit over the last few months since my last project finished up in Adelaide, and it's all been work-related.

First, I headed up north to the Territory, where I visited sites my company has acquired in Alice Springs, Katherine and Darwin. It was quite novel travelling for work, and a bit of a head trip that they would fly me about (yay! Frequent Flyer points!), put me up in a relatively nice hotel worth in excess of $200 per night, and chuck me the keys to a hire car with reckless abandon.

Besides being tired of running all over the place, it was great seeing Grant in Alice Springs and my cousin Darren as well as Grant's parents in Darwin, and also catching up with an old work mate in Katherine.

That was part of a month I spent in our South Australian head office, and during that time I was pulled here and there and given extra work to do that wasn't relevant to the reason I was sitting in the office (which is why, when I'm done blogging, I will be doing some of the work I didn't quite finish at the time. It's very close to finished, mind you, but it's kind of grating on my nerves!).

And then last week, my company very generously flew my Good Friend and Ever Willing Partner In Crime, Alice, over to Adelaide so that she could drive back with me to Melbourne, where I spent a week in our office in Richmond, familiarising myself with the new project. As if being Corporate Nessie in Adelaide hadn't worn me down for four weeks, I had had enough of it all AGAIN on my very first day in Melbourne, when it took me nearly two hours to get to work. Sure, half an hour of that was because I overshot my turnoff due to roadworks confusing me, but most of it was the traffic. It was just awful. So the rest of the week saw me rising before six to be at work at 7, so that I could leave before 4. Ugh.

And now, I'm in Barham, NSW. It's a tiny little town on the Murray, about half way between Swan Hill and Echuca. It's a little over 300km from Melbourne and is on the opposite side of the Murray to Koondrook, its Victorian counterpart. The two towns are separated by a single lane bridge that's more than a hundred years old and has a Give Way sign on one side, and a section in the middle that lifts(ed?) up to admit the paddle steamers of old. It's such a small town that the bloke who delivered flowers to me yesterday said hello in the street this morning!

To the mosquitos.

Recently, there have been significant flows in the Murray River due to flooding that began in North-Eastern Victoria. This interactive map shows you how full the reservoirs are. During this flooding, the forest we are supposed to be working in was flooded, as were many surrounding areas, and now there are pools of stagnant water all over the place. (This flooding also caused a black water event, which also means that in some backwaters there are piles of rotting fish all over the place, too.)

And so now there are mosquitoes.

I belive that there always ARE mosquitoes here at this time of year, but on my evening stroll today I was blown away by the number of them and the noise. As I walked along the river bank - probably not the smartest thing I could have done at twilight, truth be told - there were clouds and clouds of them. And you know that zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzztzzzzzzzzzztzzzztzzzzzzzzzztzzzzzzzz sound they make? Well muliply that by about twelve million. And I'm not exaggerating. As I walked with the river to my left, there was a very distinct and high-pitched whining coming from the direction of the river. Where the path wound towards the river and (introduced) trees stood out, the clouds of mosquitoes came a little bit further inland.

Seeing all these clouds of mosquitoes, in fact, walking THROUGH these clouds of mosquitos with ne'er a nibble, seemed nothing short of a miracle. I assumed that it was because I hadn't stopped still, and perhaps there was some merit in that. But it did get me wondering about the Secret Life of Mosquitoes.

So here's five fun facts about mosquitoes!

1. The gents keep their probocuses to themselves - it is the ladies that bite, and even then, not all species will bite

2. Both males and females generally feed on plant sap and nectar (which would explain why they were hovering about the trees), but the females will seek out blood for its protein and iron before breeding

3. Mosquitoes lay eggs in water, which then develop into pupae and then larvae. This part of the life cycle lasts 10-14 days, and the adult stage lasts 1-2 weeks (although they can survive up to a month in captivity <-- I must say the concept of a mosquito in captivity utterly captivates me. No pun intended, by the way!)

4. Most mosquito species are crepuscular. Great word, huh?! It means dusk or dawn feeder, which explains why you generally only get bitten in the evening - because you're still snug as a bug at dawn (and they're probably a bit sluggish from the overnight cold), and most are having a siesta in the middle of the day. Except the Asian Tiger Mosquito. He sounds a bit scary...

5. Mosquitos find their host by detecting carbon dioxide, which all mammals exhale. They will exhibit more generalised feeding behaviour - casually zipping about the place - until they detect CO2, and then they go in for the kill. Or drink, as the case may be.

Now, for good measure, I looked up this Asian Tiger Mosquito, and as it turns out, THIS is the little bastard that is ALWAYS attacking me!!! Not the nice, sleepy brown ones, but the evil, zippy, stripey ones! Get him! GET HIM! *slap* *slap* *slap*

It makes you a bit itchy just looking at him, doesn't it...

1 comment:

  1. Welcome to country Victoria (NSW)! Mosquitos and tiny towns are some of the many reasons that lots of us twenty-somethings moved to the city :-)

    Sounds like an interesting project though. And the weather is nice up there!


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