Mosquitoes didn’t evolve to be annoying, we evolved to be annoyed by mosquitoes…

If you live in one of the temperate zones on Earth, you’ve probably been beset by mosquitoes at some point. Outside the tropics, where malaria and numerous other diseases are a scourge, mosquitoes are (thankfully) mostly an annoyance.

But why?
Mosquitoes (through malaria, for example) kill about six times as many people as snakes do, yet about one third of humans are afraid of snakes, more than five times the less than 6% that are afraid of mosquitoes.

Somewhere in human evolution, the above was (presumably) an evolutionary advantage. Perhaps it’s actually because snakes are rarer than mosquitoes, and it is more possible to avoid them. Perhaps it’s because the defense against snakes and mosquitoes is different. For snakes, avoiding them or fighting them off might be the best survival tactic, as each individual snake could kill you. For mosquitoes, the ‘go away’ reaction to annoyance is perhaps actually the best defense, as we automatically wave our hands to shoo them away.

Interestingly, if you think about it, we find mosquitoes annoying, but mosquitoes didn’t evolve to be annoying, we evolved to be annoyed by mosquitoes[1]. The buzzing about, the whine of their wings, cause automatic reactions from our auditory to our reflex systems.

But what about swatting? I know that I almost automatically swat at mosquitoes, either to grab them out of the air, or swat them when they’re trying to drink my blood….but I don’t know if that’s an actual evolved automatic response, or something learned.

What is your reaction to mosquitoes? What are your other (possibly adaptive) phobias and automatic reactions?

[1] Whether we evolved from being scared to being annoyed, or from ignoring them/thinking of them as food to being annoyed is anyone’s guess….or perhaps more accurately, someone else’s research.

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