How mosquitoes hitch a ride on raindrops

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iol scitech sept 15 mosquito

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New research explains mosquitoes' apparent selectivity. Picture: Karen Sandison

London - They can outwit nets, fly swats and the strongest of insect repellents.

So when it comes to raindrops big enough to kill them, it’s little wonder mosquitoes have developed a cunning defence mechanism.

Scientists have worked out how the insects survive the impact of raindrops 50 times their size – they treat them like flying carpets.

They latch on to the droplets, which are plummeting to earth at up to 20 miles an hour, and hitch a ride to lessen the impact.

David Hu, an assistant professor at Georgia Institute of Technology, compared raindrops to “plummeting comets”.

“You’d think a mosquito wouldn’t stand a chance,” he said.

“If you were to scale up the impact to human size, we would not survive. It would be like standing in the road and getting hit by a car.”

In the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers filmed mosquitoes flying through simulated rain in a “flight arena”, a small acrylic cage covered with mesh, as well as ones which flew freely.

According to the team, the combination of a lightweight body and strong exoskeleton allows a mosquito to stick itself on to a raindrop for a fraction of a second.

To separate from the droplet, it uses its long legs and wings to harness the wind and create a drag force, allowing it to fly off unharmed rather than being flung to the ground.

mosquitoes are responsible for 200 million cases of malaria each year, resulting in 650,000 deaths. - Daily Mail

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