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Do Mosquitoes Pollinate?

Last Updated: 10.07.20

 

We often tend to consider bees as the main pollinators and they are so indeed yet mosquitoes actually also play an important part in the reproductive process of flowers. If you’re looking for information on how mosquitoes pollinate or what to do to repel them from your place, you might want to check it out here

Many of us think of bees when it comes to pollinators and rarely of other insects yet they are not the only ones that transfer pollen from one flower to another. Although it might seem quite surprising, mosquitoes play that role as well. 

 

How do mosquitoes pollinate?

Even though little research has been done in this field, there is evidence that mosquitoes pollinate a few plant species. Mosquitoes are known as mammalian pests but that is partially justifiable as not all of them feed on blood. Only female mosquitoes bite because they need protein for their eggs. Otherwise, adult mosquitoes feed on nectar from plants.

It’s true that they transfer pollen from one flower to another while they’re looking for their food and that there are many insects that serve as pollinators. Even if these involuntary pollinators were eradicated, plants would still survive, and, yet, their role may not be that insignificant. 

 

 

Mosquitoes and goldenrod

If you’ve ever had something to do with hay fever, the name of goldenrod might not be unfamiliar to you. This flower has gained notoriety because of it being associated with fall allergies. Scientists have different opinions as far as goldenrod and hay fever are concerned. 

Many of them believe that this plant is not responsible for fall allergies and that there are other plants that bloom at the same time as goldenrod that actually cause these allergies. 

However, what makes mosquitoes pollinate these plants is somewhat independent of them. The goldenrod pollen features sticky grains that adhere to mosquitoes and other insects while they’re looking for food. Plus, even if mosquitoes were eradicated by humans, other insects would pollinate these plants. 

 

Orchid pollinators

Mosquitoes don’t limit their pollinating habits to goldenrod, though. They have been observed pollinating other flower plants and even grasses. The primary interest in studying mosquitoes regards their role in drinking blood and the diseases they can transmit yet a few recent studies have focused on their role in pollinating orchids. 

These insects have been studied while pollinating the blunt bog orchid (Platanthera obtusata or Habenaria obtusata). This small orchid can be found in various parts of North America where mosquitoes live in high numbers. 

Apparently, this is not the only orchid mosquitoes pollinate. Corallorhiza trifida is another swamp orchid that these pollinators also prefer. Further research is needed in order to confirm this theory, though. 

Mosquitoes pollinate involuntarily. Both their anatomy and the way the plants they feed on make this process possible, although not intended. Male mosquitoes approach various flowers, orchids included, to procure the sweet nectar. To get the nectar, the mosquitoes make use of their long proboscis. 

Once it has located a nectar spur, the mosquito presses its compound eyes against a pollinarium. This is the only way the mosquito can reach the nectar. All this process leaves the mosquito with pollen grains stuck to its eyes when withdrawing from the flower. The pollen grains are thus transferred to another flower the mosquito will use to get nectar. 

Yet, this observation is not a recent discovery. Back in 1913, Ada K. Dietz, a researcher, observed a mosquito with two yellow spots stuck to its head, somewhere in Michigan. This was not a singular case, though. It was John Smith Dexter the one who first reported that mosquitoes are orchid pollinators. 

Intrigued by this story, he investigated further and noticed several mosquitoes bearing the same yellow masses that turned out to be from the blunt-leaved bog orchids in the area. The pollen grains stuck to their heads while they were searching for nectar to feed. Some mosquitoes had just one grain of pollen while others had even four of them. 

To be sure that this was what happened and made the pollen grains stick to the mosquitoes’ heads, Dexter placed a few orchids and a few mosquitoes in a glass aquarium leaving them there for a few days. 

It was no surprise to see the mosquitoes later bearing the pollen grains which they picked up while feeding on the orchid bloom. They then transferred the pollen grains to other orchids while moving from one plant to another to feed. 

After this discovery, scientists focused more on mosquitoes as pollinators and found out that they were pollinating other varieties of orchids not only in the northern U.S. but also in Alaska and Canada. Orchids are not pollinated only by mosquitoes, though. Other insects such as moths feed on their nectar and thus pollinate them. 

While such orchids don’t depend only on mosquitoes for pollination, there are some rare orchids that grow in areas where insects live in small numbers and thus depend more on mosquitoes for pollination. These rare orchids would suffer the most if mosquitoes were eradicated by humans. 

 

Umbelliferae pollinators

Mosquitoes pollinate other plants as well. Many of the ones in the Umbelliferae family can actually be pollinated by many insects that approach them for nectar. Furthermore, the flowers that have an umbrella shape are usually a great source of food for many insects including mosquitoes. 

 

 

Why mosquito bites are dangerous

Although mosquitoes pollinate some plants and thus contribute to the reproductive process of flowers, they should be avoided since they pose health risks. Mosquitoes bite and when they do they can transmit various diseases. 

Malaria is probably the most well-known disease spread by mosquitoes. Its symptoms include fever, muscle pain, vomiting, and diarrhea, just to name a few. The complications can be very severe and even lead to death. 

Viral infections such as yellow fever and dengue fever are also part of the health problems mosquito bites can cause, and the list goes on with Japanese encephalitis and the West Nile Virus. 

Since you can only get a vaccine to protect yourself against yellow fever and Japanese encephalitis and some preventive medicines to get protection against malaria, it is highly important to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes. 

 

How to repel mosquitoes

In case you have orchids or other plants mosquitoes could pollinate yet you don’t want them anywhere near your place, protecting your garden and home from them is easier these days than it was a few decades ago. 

The market offers a wide variety of mosquito repellents that are easy to use as well as safe for people and pets. Depending on your particular needs and the degree of mosquito invasion in your area, you can choose from a wide range of products. 

If you want something light for indoor use, then a spray is worth considering. They are popular because of their effectiveness and ease of use. Plus, you can easily add them to your travel gear. If, for some reason, you don’t want to keep spraying the repellent, you can go for a repellent that you can apply directly to your skin. 

Make sure you choose a product that contains DEET. A 50% concentration is ideal. This is considered to be one of the most effective ways to keep mosquitoes away and avoid getting bitten by them. It is easy to apply and it can be added to one’s backpack, handbag, or travel gear with ease. 

Mosquito repellent nets are also a popular choice, especially when camping. Many such nets contain an insecticide, the reason why they are so effective. Liquid repellents that are usually dispersed over hours or mosquito repellent tablets that are used with electrical devices release vapors that will keep such intruders at bay and prevent them from re-entering your room. 

 

 

 

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