What Role Do Mosquitoes Play in the World?

Zika virus. Malaria. West Nile virus. Dengue fever. Are you familiar with these diseases? If so, you probably know what they all have in common. These are a few of the illnesses transmitted by one of the greatest nuisances known to mankind—the mosquito.

Most of the time, mosquito bites are just annoying and itchy. Nothing spoils a backyard barbecue faster than a swarm of these bloodsucking insects. However, some mosquitoes carry viruses that cause deadly diseases. In fact, some experts believe that mosquitoes pose a greater threat to human life than any other organism.

Throughout history, mosquitoes are believed to have caused the deaths of 52 billion people. That’s half of the total human population that has ever lived on Earth! Even today, diseases spread by mosquitoes claim more lives each year than war does.

It’s no wonder that many people want to eliminate mosquitoes completely. What if we could eradicate the entire mosquito population? No more malaria. No more Zika. No more itchy bumps after spending a summer day outdoors. Doesn’t that sound amazing?

Not so fast. While it’s true that some species of mosquitoes harm humans, others do not pose any threat at all! In fact, some of these mosquitoes play important roles in their ecosystems. How do mosquitoes contribute to the world? Let’s explore a few ways.

Many of our Wonder Friends already know that bees play a crucial role in pollination. Surprisingly, mosquitoes do too! Most mosquitoes actually feed on nectar instead of blood. In doing so, they assist in pollinating the plants they feed on.

It’s also important to remember that even mosquitoes are part of an ecosystem. Without them, the food chain would be disrupted. As larvae, they live in water and consume algae and other small organisms. The mosquito larvae are then consumed by fish.

Adult mosquitoes serve as a food source for bats, birds, spiders, and small mammals. Without mosquitoes, these animals would have to find alternative food sources. Some experts even believe that mosquitoes could be beneficial to humans. Researchers are studying the potential use of mosquito saliva in treating cardiovascular disease.

Some historians even argue that mosquitoes have influenced significant events in human history. Two examples are the American Civil War and World War II. In fact, mosquitoes were used by the Nazis as a biological weapon, causing the spread of malaria among Italian troops.

Out of the more than 3,000 species of mosquitoes worldwide, only three are primarily responsible for spreading diseases. Furthermore, it’s only the female mosquitoes that bite humans. Some experts are searching for ways to target these species and stop the spread of diseases like malaria. However, they are concerned about the potential broader consequences of doing so.

Mosquitoes are important to the ecosystem. Nevertheless, it’s crucial to take measures to protect yourself from their bites. How does your family stay safe from mosquitoes? Discuss with an adult family member how you can better avoid these pests.

Try It Out

Continue learning with the assistance of an adult friend or family member and try one or more of these activities:

Looking for more interesting facts about insects? Take a look at this informative content from National Geographic called Weird But True! Did you discover anything new? Have a discussion with a friend or family member about it.

Do you know how to protect yourself from mosquito bites? If you’re unsure, ask an adult to help you search for answers online. Afterward, create a list of actions you can take to avoid mosquito bites. Keep your list in a safe place so you can refer to it before going outside to play.

Take some time to learn about the elephant mosquito, the largest mosquito in the world. What sets this mosquito apart? How is it similar or different from the mosquitoes you’ve encountered? Summarize your findings for a friend or family member.

Sources of wonder:

– National Geographic: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/group/mosquitoes/ (accessed on October 23, 2020)

– Smithsonian Magazine: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/how-mosquitos-helped-shape-human-history-180972802/ (accessed on October 23, 2020)

– ThoughtCo: https://www.thoughtco.com/what-good-are-mosquitoes-1968303 (accessed on October 23, 2020)

– Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2017/09/13/what-would-happen-if-we-eliminated-the-worlds-mosquitoes/#7df59e9f11f6 (accessed on October 23, 2020)

– National Wildlife Federation: https://blog.nwf.org/2020/09/what-purpose-do-mosquitoes-serve/ (accessed on October 23, 2020)


1. How do mosquitoes contribute to the ecosystem?

Mosquitoes play a role in the ecosystem by serving as a food source for various animals. Many species of birds, bats, frogs, and fish rely on mosquitoes as a significant part of their diet. By providing a food source for these animals, mosquitoes help maintain the balance of the ecosystem.

2. Can mosquitoes be beneficial for pollination?

While mosquitoes are not major pollinators like bees or butterflies, they can contribute to pollination to some extent. Certain species of mosquitoes feed on nectar from flowers, and as they move from one flower to another, they inadvertently transfer pollen. Although their contribution may be minimal compared to other pollinators, it still plays a small role in plant reproduction.

3. Do mosquitoes have any role in nutrient cycling?

Yes, mosquitoes do play a role in nutrient cycling. When mosquitoes lay their eggs in stagnant water bodies, the larvae feed on organic matter present in the water. As they grow and develop, they help break down the organic material, contributing to the decomposition process. This helps recycle nutrients back into the ecosystem.

4. Are mosquitoes important for scientific research?

Yes, mosquitoes are crucial for scientific research. They are extensively studied to understand various aspects, including their behavior, reproduction, and the diseases they transmit. Scientists use this knowledge to develop effective control strategies and find ways to prevent mosquito-borne diseases like malaria, dengue, and Zika virus.

5. Can mosquitoes have any positive impact on human health?

While mosquitoes are primarily known for spreading diseases, some researchers believe that they can have a positive impact on human health. Studies suggest that exposure to mosquito bites may help build immunity against certain diseases. Additionally, studying mosquitoes and the diseases they carry has led to advancements in medical research and the development of vaccines.

6. Do mosquitoes have any economic significance?

Yes, mosquitoes have economic significance in various ways. The control measures and products used to prevent mosquito-borne diseases contribute to the economy. Additionally, the tourism industry in some regions benefits from mosquitoes, as they attract birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts who come to observe the diverse wildlife that depends on mosquitoes as a food source.

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