The estimated number of individuals who have perished in wars, battles, and conflicts throughout human history is 1 billion. However, that comes nowhere close to a comparison with the number of people killed by mosquitoes. According to the journal Nature, this killer insect is to blame for the deaths of roughly half of all people who have lived during the last 50,000 years. So, it’s no wonder they are regarded as the deadliest animal on the planet. They spread some of the deadliest diseases humankind has ever seen, including malaria, Zika, West Nile, and dengue. So, knowing how dangerous mosquitoes are, should we just kill them all? And what would the impact be if we took such a bold step?
Should we kill all the mosquitoes on earth?
Before we answer the question, let us first learn about mosquitoes and their deadly effects on us.
Mosquitoes and their deadly effects
Mosquitoes have existed on earth for almost 100 million years. This means that they have continuously co-evolved with thousands of other species along the way. Today, there are about 3,600 species of mosquitoes, a relatively small number for an insect family, but they have devastating effects on human health and well-being. They are blamed for more human suffering and damage than any other organism (with one obvious exception: us).
Female Anopheles mosquitoes carry the parasite that causes up to 241 million cases of malaria annually. Likewise, the Asian Tiger Mosquito, Aedes albopictus, transmits dengue fever, yellow fever virus, and chikungunya fever all over the world, especially in certain Latin American and Asian countries. Even emerging diseases like the West Nile virus and the most recent Zika virus have been readily spread by mosquitoes.
And as a result, every year, more than a million people, mostly from underdeveloped countries, die from mosquito-borne diseases. It’s not just people, livestock and other animals get infected by them too. They are very annoying as well.
So, mosquitoes are undoubtedly the most dangerous animal on the planet, carrying malaria, Zika, dengue, and other deadly diseases. But killing all mosquito species would have far-reaching consequences.
What would happen if we killed all the mosquitoes on earth?
Mosquitoes do have a significant influence on the planet. All species, including humans, are affected by them. They play a crucial role in the evolution of our defense mechanisms. They are plentiful and usually easy to catch, which makes them a great food source for insect eaters. Moreover, eliminating mosquitoes would also eliminate a group of pollinators.
If mosquitoes were wiped out from the earth, hundreds of species of fish, insects, spiders, lizards, salamanders, and frogs would have to adapt their diet in order to survive. Dragonflies, for example, are commonly referred to as mosquito hawks due to their ability to eat up to 100 mosquitos in a single day. They will very certainly need to change their diets. And changing nutrition on such a massive scale might be challenging, and some species may become extinct. As a result, the food chain could be disrupted.
Through the foods they consume, mosquitoes contribute to the ecology as well. Midges eat the dead bodies of leaves, microorganisms, and insects that have died and drowned in the water, and mosquito larvae move in to feast on the waste products. As a result, vital nutrients are produced for plants. So, plant growth may be affected if mosquitoes disappear.
Undoubtedly, it feels nice to dream about a world without mosquitoes. However, it’s difficult to say to what extent their disappearance will lead the ecosystem to collapse. And will we, the humans, the species with the unquenchable desire for knowledge, succeed in killing them? For the time being, all we can say is that the fruit of that special tree has never been left uneaten for very long. So, no one knows what will happen in the future. Maybe we will kill all mosquitoes on earth, or perhaps we will invent such medicine to tackle the diseases mosquitoes spread and allow people to coexist happily.
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Thumbnail Image, 1: Image by WikiImages from Pixabay 2: Image by Nuriyah Nuyu Pixabay 3: Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1616904 4: (Image: James Gathany, CDC), CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons