When you think of the deadliest creatures on earth, you probably think of large animals in exotic locations and you're not wrong. However, the deadliest creature of all is thriving in Minnesota and South Dakota, and they appear to be hunting us in record numbers this year.
For perspective, BBC Science Focus says the 10th deadliest creature on the planet is the lion, which kills 200 humans per year. Then at #9 are hippos (killing 500 humans per year), followed by #8 elephants (killing 600 humans per year), #7 crocodiles (killing 1,000 humans per year), #6 scorpions (killing 3,300 humans per year), #5 assassin bugs (killing 10,000 humans per year by spreading the deadly Chagas disease), #4 dogs (killing 59,000 humans per year, mostly from rabies), #3 snakes (killing 138,000 humans per year), and #2 humans (killing 400,000 humans per year via homicide).
However, none can compare to the creature that sits atop this list. Despite weighing just 2.5 milligrams, these "silent feeders" kill a whopping 725,000 humans each year by spreading an array of diseases including malaria, West Nile virus, Dengue Fever, Zika virus, Yellow Fever, and Chikungunya. Of course, we're talking about mosquitoes.
This tiny little flying insect has been the cause of much death worldwide thanks to its spreading of malaria and has steered the course of human history on multiple occasions.
Mosquitoes are indeed deadly, with the majority of mosquito-related deaths occurring outside of the United States. Malaria infection is particularly bad in Africa, with the region accounting for 95% of cases and 96% of deaths worldwide. Tragically, children under 5 accounted for about 80% of all malaria deaths in that region.
According to the World Health Organisation, “malaria mostly spreads to people through the bites of some infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.”
In Minnesota and South Dakota this year, mosquitoes seem to be out in greater numbers than ever. According to a recent story by CBS News, the spike in our mosquito population is tied to spring flooding and delayed hatching from drought years, which means the mosquitoes that didn't hatch the last year or the year before are all hatching now.
Avoiding mosquito bites under these conditions seems impossible, but experts suggest the following tips to avoid getting bitten:
- Keep mosquitoes away from exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks.
- Tuck shirts into pants and pants into socks to cover gaps in your clothing where mosquitoes can get to your skin.
- Stay indoors when possible, especially if there is a mosquito-borne disease warning in effect.
- Use EPA-registered mosquito repellents when necessary and follow label directions and precautions closely.
- Use head nets, long sleeves, and long pants if you venture into areas with high mosquito populations, such as salt marshes.
- Replace your outdoor lights with yellow "bug" lights, which tend to attract fewer mosquitoes than ordinary lights. The yellow lights are NOT repellents, however.
Also, to keep mosquitoes outside and not in your home, you should cover all gaps in walls, doors, and windows to prevent mosquitoes from entering. Also, make sure window and door screens are in good working order, and completely cover baby carriers and beds with netting.