By David Metcalfe
June 1, 2020
At the time, I did not realize it, but looking back now, I can see that I was born into extraordinary privilege. Most mosquitos grow up in ponds or lakes, where, in their immobile and helpless state, they can easily be eaten by predators, starved of necessary nutrients, dried up, or blown into destruction by a mean gust of wind. Whether my mother was exceptionally wise or just happened to be lucky, I am not sure, but she happened to give birth to all 156 of us in a large rubber tire with plenty of water in it under an old oak tree. This served two important functions: for one, we were safe from predators (we were nowhere near fish, and birds were not able to get in too easily). Secondly, it was early September, and a couple massive leaves had fallen into the tire. Those leaves- combined with the existing bacteria- provided more than enough food for us, and I can’t remember a time ever feeling very hungry.
Interrupting an otherwise idyllic childhood, there was one instance where the lives of me and my siblings were put in jeopardy. There was an unwelcome guest appearance by a ginormous frog (later on in life I came across many frogs way bigger, but at the time it felt ginormous). The frog had jumped into our home and caused a massive splash; crushing several of my siblings and sending a dozen overboard into the grassy abyss. The frog then proceeded to eat a dozen of us before leaping off again. This event left us all quite traumatized, but there were no therapists or self-help books or anything of the like in the tire, so we learned to cope and move on- in the knowledge that it could happen again anytime, and each day alive was to be cherished.
When I finally developed wings, I was ecstatic. The most optimistic moment of my entire life was when I first flew out of that tire, accompanied by nearly one hundred of my siblings. We had waited so long in that tire, and life was finally ours to experience. We had a whole world waiting for us, and I finally had the opportunity to live out my dream of doing good in the world and someday having a family of my own.
After mating, we went out to get blood so that we could all start families of our own. I didn’t know how to get the blood or where it came from, but I just knew it was something I had to get. There was a group of people camping nearby. They had tons of blood, so me, my siblings, and many other nearby friends and neighbours all smelled them and flew quickly towards them. I was a bit nervous, so I held back to see what everyone else was doing to get the blood. I saw them stabbing their mouths into the humans’ skin and extracting the blood forcefully. The humans were frightened and began to kill them by hitting them and spraying them with a can.
My initial optimism turned to horror, and I was so disturbed by the whole ordeal that I just turned around and went back to the tire where I was raised. I felt it was time to return to my roots as I decided on a path for my future. I thought to myself: why do we have to hurt the humans to get the blood? Why do the humans hate us so much? Don’t they know we need their blood in order to have families?
It just didn’t seem right, in my mind, to hurt the humans in order to get blood for ourselves. My friends were troubled by the fact that I was contentiously objecting to blood extraction, and an elderly mosquito told me about an old legend, that at the very top of the mountain lives a 100 year old mosquito who is the oldest and wisest mosquito who ever lived. It was a long journey of flying uphill for over two days straight, but eventually I made it to the top of the mountain. I took a break and sat silently, and I heard a faint buzzing sound in the distance. I travelled to it, and there was a grey haired mosquito sitting cross legged on a small piece of fabric. I asked him if he was the oldest and wisest mosquito who ever lived, and he confirmed that he was. I asked him, “are we just parasites who can only exist by hurting others? Does that make our existence nothing more than harmful and destructive? Is there any hope for us to do good in the world, or would it be better if we just all went extinct?”.
The wise, old mosquito sat there silently for a long while, stood up, turned towards me and said, “I’ve lived on this earth a very long time and been many places. It is true, as you say, that from the humans’ perspective, we are a very annoying- even evil- thing. Did you know that we can carry malaria with us when we extract blood from people, and that alone kills over half a million of them every year? But furthermore, as you say, we bother them a great deal. So much so that they have spent millions of dollars in research to wipe us out, and billions of dollars of mosquito repellant is purchased every year. One of the main life saving charities in the world is giving people mosquito nets while they sleep, specifically to protect them from us.
But at the same time, we are integral to the ecosystems of which we are a part. That frog that killed so many of your siblings was only doing so in order to maintain his own survival. The birds, fish, spiders, etc. all rely on us for food, just as we rely on blood. Would you say that all of these species should abstain from mosquitos and thus die of starvation? In the same way, do you not know that if your mother had abstained from blood you would not have been born? The humans, too, are parasites to the earth and many of its creatures. They take places of vast wildlife and beauty, and turn them into cement buildings. They drill holes in the ground to extract substances that they then burn, which releases disgusting byproducts into the very air we all breathe. They have massive slaughterhouses of cows, chicken, pigs, etc. that they systematically breed only to kill and eat.
The sad truth is that we all can be considered parasites to each other, depending on your perspective.
But we must also ask what benefit we can be to one another. We must consider how to interact with one another sustainably and with empathy. We were all created by the great mosquito, and must find in ourselves and in one another that shared spirit. I cannot tell you what you must do, but only to search within your heart.”
I left that meeting with a lot of new ideas running through my mind. I realized that our existence as living creatures was important, and so was the existence of the many other species around me- both predators and prey. It took me a long time, but I ended up having a family of my own. The humans played a game where they punched each other in the face repeatedly called “boxing” (they are a much less intelligent species than us, clearly). But anyway, when they punch each other in the face, blood comes out of their nose. I snuck in and grabbed some once. It was my way of being able to have a family while not having to do something that I felt was harmful to the humans.
Other mosquitos in my community still think of me as an oddball for not following the “proper way” of blood extraction, but to me, it was important to maintain my values in that regard. I taught those values to my children, and while I won’t live to see them as adults, I hope they all search within their hearts for wisdom, and maybe even seek out the advice of the great mosquito at the top of the mountain, as I did as a young adult.
Some of my children were eaten by a dragonfly a couple days ago, and I try not to be bitter about it. I know that dragonfly probably has children at home too that it needs to provide for. Most of my children will make it through, as I was able to find them a very spacious, safe, bacteria filled old canoe to grow up in. The cycle of life goes on, hopefully compounding wisdom, kindness and thoughtfulness with each succeeding generation.