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New Nymph on the Block by Nigel Roth

Dernière mise à jour : 2 mars 2021

If Timothy Winegard is correct, the deadliest predator our planet has ever seen is sitting on your leg right now.

Even if she’s not responsible for the demise of nearly half of all the people who’ve ever lived, as some believe, she certainly has a lot to answer for. And, she’s had a long time to practice her skills, more than fifty million years. If you were quick enough to grab her now and compare her to fossils from the Eocene, you’d not be able to tell them apart, except for the blood in her being yours, and soon her eggs’.

In fact, the two main types of mosquito living today, Anophelinae and Culicinae, went their separate ways around two-hundred million years ago, so these flies are extremely old. With age comes wisdom, of course, but also gradual refined evolution, to a point where a mosquito is really good at being a mosquito. One of those achievements, unfortunately, is the spread of disease.

Without scaring you, and I assume you have now slapped your leg to shoo the insect away, female mosquitoes can give you some quite nasty challenges. Viral ones, like yellow and dengue fever, and the infection known as chikungunya, as well as parasitic diseases like malaria, and such horrors as West Nile virus, Eastern equine, Western equine, Venezuelan equine, and St Louis encephalitis. They can also give you tularemia and zika, of course, and contribute to microcephaly and elephantiasis. And, their bites itch like hell.

If you do get one of these inconvenient death-nibbles, though, you’re in good company. By Winegard’s reckoning in his book The Mosquito, the female mosquito wiped-out one-third of all Christian Crusaders before they could even think of shouting deus vult at the infidels, most of the British invasion force in 1727 Cartagena, and the vast majority of Nelson’s troops in Nicaragua fifty years later. It also dispatched the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell in 1658, Alexander III of Macedon, who wasn’t so Great at shaking off a fever, and nearly five-thousand Americans trying to avenge the explosion of the USS Maine in Cuba, in the late 1880s, compared to less than four-hundred who died of actual fighting in that Spanish-American War.