Ever wondered what happens to your body when a mosquito bites you? Let’s find out. A mosquito is equipped with a specialised structure which allows it to bite its hosts. This struture is composed of several parts, all of which aid it to feed on the blood of its victims: it is able to pierce through the skin, looking for blood vessels, simultaneously releasing its saliva and taking in blood.
Mosquitoes, annoying little creatures
One of the most annoying insects on earth has got to be mosquitoes. Tiny as they are, their ‘stings’ hurt. Bloody blood-suckers suck at being nice, huh? What hurts more though: their bites or the irritating sounds of them flying near people’s ears? Difficult to tell, right?! Not to mention that their bites sometimes cause itching of the skin. As if this was not enough, they are also vectors of diseases; malaria, Dengue fever, you name it. Have you ever wondered, though, as to what really happens when a mosquito bites you?
To understand what happens during mosquito-bites, one should understand the anatomy of the structures enabling them to get onto mode attack.
Mosquitoes are equipped with the perfect feeding tool: their proboscis, which includes the labium. The latter reveals a set of six mouthparts – together, they are thinner than a human hair – which are inserted into the skins of their victims. The mouthparts consist of filaments which are used to pierce through the skin – a pair of mandibles and a pair of maxillae – and two tubes known as the hypopharynx and the labrum, which are used for the exchange substances from mosquito to host.
How does the mosquito bite?
They first need to find some blood vessel – their aim is to take out blood, right? Female mosquitoes need to feed on their hosts’ blood to be able to lay viable eggs. They are thus programmed to pump up blood into their bodies. They make several attempts to find blood vessels.
They use the maxillae to get a grip onto the flesh of their poor victims. When they have gotten hold of it, they are then able to push the other mouthparts deeper into the skin.
Then, they make use of the central needle-like tube composed of the hypopharynx and the labrum. The former delivers the mosquito saliva into the host, while the labrum sucks out blood. They salivate soon enough as they probe the skin, emitting substances necessary to prevent blood clotting on the skin of the host; blood clotting is a normal, self-preserving reaction triggered when blood oozes out. The saliva also prevents inflammation from occurring.
Would it be such a bad thing if mosquitoes were to bite without preventing blood clotting?
Yes, pretty much. Imagine this scene if blood clotting was not blocked: once a mosquito pierces the skin and blood comes out, the process of blood clotting would be stimulated, at the end of which, the mosquito would become glued to the skin, hence trapped, unable to fly away. Would not be nice to have a free blood meal, and getting stranded at the food-joint, right? Nor would it be nice for the human hosts to have mosquitoes stuck in between their hairs due to block clotting, right?
It is to be noted that the mouthparts are not rigid structures, as you would tend to think of them as straight needles which do not bend. Rather, they are flexible, the movements of which are controlled by the mosquito. The mouthparts move inside the skin, looking for blood vessels.
When feeding is done, they park out of their food joint, and fly away happily, relieved that they will now be able to deliver lovely and pretty eggs which will hatch into healthy babies. Parents would do anything for their offspring, right? Even if they have to get their hands dirty with the blood of innocents.
Well, while they have a happy ending, the same cannot be said about the hosts themselves – the latter are left with itches, red rashes, and maybe a bad mood as well. In more unlucky cases, they might even end up with parasites inside their system.