Depths Of... Cool Bug Facts
What's all the buzz about?
I’m Annie Rauwerda, and I started @depthsofwikipedia on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok to highlight my favorite Wikipedia rabbit holes. I partnered with Bullish Studio to round up the weirdest Wikipedia articles about a new subject every week.
Next up: Insects! Here are the Wikipedia pages I'm bugging about this week:
💉 Blood Bath and Beyond
Mosquitoes are the only creature responsible for more deaths of humans than humans themselves. The list of deadliest animals to humans in order is mosquitoes, humans, snakes, dogs, and tsetse flies (so maybe your mom’s insistence on bug spray is justified).
To emphasize the importance of malaria prevention, Bill Gates released mosquitoes into a TED Talk crowd, saying “there’s no reason only poor people should experience them.”
🔥 New Species Just Dropped
There is a whole Wikipedia page dedicated to the London Underground Mosquito, a species in the London Underground system that is genetically distinct from above-ground species. Compared to its above-ground counterparts, London Underground mosquitos thrive in warmer temperatures, don't hibernate, and prefer the blood of humans to that of birds. The subterranean mosquito variety is also known to thrive in the sewers of Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
🔉 The Armor of Generational Feuds
“The Mosquito” is a machine designed to deter loitering by emitting a high-pitch sound only audible to young people. Though somewhat effective, it can greatly disturb those with autism and has been called a “sonic weapon.”
But it goes both ways: Young peeps have found a way to use this high-frequency noise to their advantage. In 2008, the sound gained popularity as a ringtone. It’s inaudible for most people older than their twenties, so teachers wouldn’t hear it in class.
🚘 Back in My Day...
According to the Windshield Phenomenon, fewer dead insects smash into car windshields than in decades past due to the global decline in insect populations. The trend might be good for visibility, but it’s bad for the future of the planet — the rapid disappearance of insects has repeatedly happened before major extinction events.
🐛 Not Tall Enough to Ride
Walt Disney World is in the middle of a swamp, but there are few mosquitoes to be found in the park. Why? It's all thanks to science and... chickens. Instead of blindly spraying insecticides over the whole property — which is twice the size of Manhattan — Disney World administers insecticide in a calculated manner based on the contents of mosquito traps stationed throughout the park. Disney also keeps chicken sentinels whose sole purpose is to be monitored for symptoms of the West Nile Virus.
🧪 Questionable Mid-Century Bug Experiments
Entomological warfare is the most vile, nightmarish mix I can imagine: war and insects. The use of bugs to administer toxins is against international law under the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention of 1972, but plenty of research occurred before then which means that information is out there on how to infect bugs with plague or cholera and release them onto your enemy.
Here are some mid-century US government initiatives that were definitely named by a five-year-old:
Operation Drop Kick: In 1956, the US government released hundreds of thousands of mosquitoes in residential areas in Georgia and Florida and measured how many bugs entered houses and bit people.
Operation Big Itch: The US government dumped fleas from an airplane over Utah.
Operation Big Buzz: in 1955, the US government released over 300,000 mosquitos from an airplane over Georgia.
🎧 Not an Equal Opportunity Attacker
Sober universal donors who listen to Skrillex, you’re in luck! Mosquitoes show a preference for people who drink beer and have Type O blood. Interestingly, the bugs don’t like Skrillex, and his EP Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites can be used as a mosquito repellant because the insects don’t like the repeated tones. This is a good fact to remember in case you’re ever in the woods with a speaker but no bug spray. Other mosquito favorites include body heat, heavy breathers, and pregnant people.
🦟 Can We Just Get Rid of Them?
Mosquitos are both our peskiest annoyance and our greatest predator. So, what if we just got rid of them? It's actually not a terrible idea. According to this prestigious paper, eradicating mosquitoes probably wouldn't be so bad.