Being a mosquito can really suck. Not only do you have to gulp down your food because your dinner can turn around and swat you if you’re not fast enough, but a bellyful of hot blood can really do a number on your little body, which prefers to keep things cool.
So how do feeding skeeters keep from overheating? They take advantage of evaporation. That’s according to a study in the journal Current Biology. [Chloé Lahondère and Claudio R. Lazzari, "Mosquitoes Cool Down during Blood Feeding to Avoid Overheating"]
Insects depend on the environment to regulate their body temperatures. But too much heat can be bad for their health. That’s a serious problem when your meals consist of hot, fresh animal blood. The solution, it seems, is to use a drop of your dinner to cool you down. Like sweat, only blood.
Scientists used a thermal camera to watch mosquitos eat. And they found that mosquitoes that excrete, and then hang onto, a single bead of blood while feeding have bodies a couple degrees cooler than those that don’t.
Disrupting this sacrificial blood cooling system could provide a new strategy for controlling mosquitoes, and the diseases they spread. Because if a skeeter can’t secrete, its next supper could be its last.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]