Of Michigan, Mosquitoes & Malaria


Mosquito, photo by stepponme123456789

If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito.
~Anita Roddick

Today on Absolute Michigan we posted a weird little cartoon from the early 1900s by Michigan animator Winsor McCay who is often known as “The Father of Animation” titled “How a Mosquito Works.” That seemed to me to be good enough reason to take a closer look at these pesky pests.

Wikipedia’s Mosquito entry says that mosquitoes are a family of small, midge-like flies: the Culicidae. The word mosquito is from the Spanish and Portuguese for “little fly”. You can click that link for likely more than you want to know about how they feed. The Michigan Mosquito Control Association claims that:

Mosquitoes are by far the most dangerous animals on earth. It is hard to comprehend the amount of disease and the resulting sickness, death, and economic loss caused by the mosquito. Some scientists estimate between 500 and 700 million people get malaria worldwide each year. That’s more than twice the entire population of the United States each year. Malaria has since been virtually eliminated here in Michigan , but the threat of mosquito-borne disease is still very real. Of the 60 different species of mosquitoes found in Michigan many are known to be vectors (carriers or transporters) of important diseases such as West Nile virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, St. Louis Encephalitis, and the California Group of encephalitis.

An interesting thing I learned was that Michigan was once a hotbed of malaria as Daniel Hager from the Mackinac Institute of Public Policy explained:

Willis F. Dunbar in “Michigan: A History of the Wolverine State,” writes that the disease “was so prevalent that it was rather unusual to escape it.” Ruth Hoppin, who grew up in a pioneer family in St. Joseph County near Three Rivers, recalled that “the pale, sallow, bloated faces of that period were the rule; there were no healthy faces except of persons just arrived.” A. D. P. Van Buren, whose family came to Calhoun County near Battle Creek in 1836, noted that the first question asked of new settlers was whether or not they had contracted malaria yet, and “if answered in the negative, the reply would be, `Well, you will have it; everybody has it before they’ve been here long.'”

The settlers’ common word for malaria was ague (pronounced “ag-yew”), which derived from the Latin word acuta, as in febris acuta, or “sharp fever.”

The state of Michigan has a ton of information about mosquito control in Michigan. You might also enjoy an interview with MSU Entomologist Howard Russell about mosquitos and this detailed article on Gallinipper mosquitoes, which are native to Michigan and large enough to bite through canvas shorts.

Check this out background big and see some more great shots in Stephanie’s Bugs slideshow.

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