Sucking up knowledge

By Christian BlockLex Kleren Switch to German for original article

Climatic changes, globalisation and urbanisation favour the spread of disease-carrying mosquitoes. This is also confirmed by the first mosquito atlas, which researchers have been working on for three years. It is Luxembourg's first comprehensive inventory.

They rob us of our sleep, cause biting wounds or, in the worst case, serious illnesses. In the human popularity scale, mosquitoes probably rank rather low among the fauna. Nevertheless, it is important and will become increasingly important in the future to deal with this insect family.

For some years now, non-native mosquito species have been spreading increasingly in Europe and with them the risk of transmitting diseases such as West Nile virus, dengue fever, malaria or the chikungunya virus is rising. Climatic changes, which are expressed for example in longer vegetation periods, favour the occurrence of native species as well as the settlement of new ones. "Milder winters or even wetter springs: this is of course optimal for mosquitoes, because then the eggs can develop well into larvae and hatch in warm, humid conditions, and not so many are killed by frost in winter", says Dr Alexander Weigand, curator of zoology at the National Museum of Natural History.

However, there is a second accelerating factor: globalisation. The biologist gives an example: Where people used to travel by ship between North America and Europe, a mosquito could hardly survive the crossing. "But today, if it arrives at the foundling on board a cargo plane, coming from a malaria-endemic area, it can of course also have the malaria pathogen in it and bite someone at the airport the next day." The example is not arbitrarily chosen. In the 1990s, there were probably five cases of malaria within a four-kilometre radius of the national airport. Since the people affected were not on holiday, it is assumed that flown-in Anopheles mosquitoes, as the malaria mosquitoes are also called, could have passed on the disease.

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