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What Good Are Mosquitoes?

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Mosquito larvae are nutrient-rich snacks for hungry fish and other aquatic wildlife.

Mosquito larvae are nutrient-rich snacks for hungry fish and other aquatic wildlife.

Photo courtesy of the CDC.
Question: What Good Are Mosquitoes?
Answer:

There isn't much love lost between people and mosquitoes. At the very least, these bloodthirsty insects are major annoyances, biting us with a persistence that can be maddening. If insects can be credited with evil intent, mosquitoes seem determined to wipe the human race out. As carriers of deadly diseases, mosquitoes are the deadliest insect on Earth. Each year, millions of people die from malaria, dengue fever, and yellow fever after being bitten by a disease-carrying mosquito. Mosquitoes also carry diseases that pose serious threats to livestock and pets.

With all these strikes against them, it's hard to imagine that mosquitoes fulfill any useful purpose. We forget that mosquitoes populated this planet long before man; the oldest mosquito fossils date back some 200 million years, to the Cretaceous period. Clearly, mosquitoes fill an important ecological niche. So what good are mosquitoes?

Mosquito larvae are aquatic insects, and as such, play an important role in the aquatic food chain. According to Dr. Gilbert Waldbauer in The Handy Bug Answer Book, "mosquito larvae are filter feeders that strain tiny organic particles such as unicellular algae from the water and convert them to the tissues of their own bodies, which are, in turn, eaten by fish." Mosquito larvae are, in essence, nutrient-packed snacks for fish and other aquatic animals.

Their role on the bottom of the food chain doesn't end at the larval stage, of course. As adults, mosquitoes serve as equally nutritious meals for birds, bats, and spiders.

As much as we loathe them, mosquitoes represent a considerable biomass of food for wildlife on the lower rungs of the food chain. Their extinction, were it even achievable, would have an enormous adverse affect on the entire ecosystem.

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