LAB 013 - PREDATOR
ABOUT THE EPISODE
In our first lab back from the summer break we are talking about one of the greatest predators alive…..the mosquito. We are not joking! The New York Times recently called them the “apex predator, the deadliest hunters of humans on the planet”! When we heard this we thought ‘…uh oh…we are in DANGER’. But then we realized we had more questions.
In this lab we interviewed Dr. Lyric Bartholomay a vector biologist at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Dr. Bartholomay studies invertebrate immunobiology, including innate immune responses to infectious disease agents in mosquitoes, ticks, and cultured shrimp. So we were able to get to the bottom of why mosquitoes bite us, which mosquitoes are doing the biting, and how they spread disease.
EXTRA TIDBITS & LINKS
Dr. Bartholomay explained to us that only female mosquitoes are feeding on blood because they need blood to get protein to their eggs. Males mosquitoes only feed on pollen.
There are ~3,600 types of mosquitoes but only 10% of them can actually transmit pathogens. But just because they can doesn’t mean that they always will. We learned that a a few other things have to occur before you get a disease from a mosquito.
1: the mosquito has to bite a host that is already infected with the disease
2: The disease has to make its way into the mosquitoes blood cells which is no simple feat because the mosquito’s cells will try to block the virus.
3: that specific mosquito has to bite you transmit that disease to you, also not as easy as it sounds.
In the U.S. the types of mosquitoes (and in turn the type of disease) that are around are dependent on what area of the country you are in. The mosquitoes in the southern part of the U.S. are tropical and may carry zika and chikungunya. In the midwest/high plains states where it is colder, those species of mosquitoes are able to survive the polar vortex. They may carry West Nile virus or encephalitis .
The best way to protect yourself from mosquito bites is using mosquito repellent. The EPA recommends using repellents that have DEET. DEET confuses the mosquitoes by making us not smell like a food source.
Dr. Bartholomay also does some REALLY amazing work outside of the lab with the Urban Ecosystem Project . She works with Iowa State university on a summer program called “Mosquitoes and Me” working with families and kids.