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Gentle Takeoffs

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  21 Oct 2017 12:00 AM GMT

What is certainly intriguing is how a mosquito mages to sit on a human limb, suck a whole lot of blood and fly off often without the victim being aware of what the despicable insect has done. The mosquito’s performance is really remarkable because the amount of blood it sucks generally doubles or triples its body weight. So, even though we are talking of a very small insect that must take off very stealthily if it is to avoid being swatted by the victim, what is really involved is a very complex take off—as far as take offs go. Aerospace engineer Florian Muijres, who has done a close study of mosquito take offs and landings, has discovered that about 30 milliseconds before take off (after a hearty blood meal), a mosquito initiates an extraordirily high frequency of wingbeats—about 600 beats per second, compared to 200 beats per second that other similar-sized insects can mage. According to Muijres, who is a research scientist at the Wageningen University in the Netherlands, and his fellow biologists, the flight behaviour of mosquitoes is different from that of other insects and birds. “While most birds and insects such as flies push very hard with their legs and then flap their wings, we see different behaviour in mosquitoes,” said Muijres. The exceptiolly rapid wing beats provide a mosquito about 61 per cent of the total push-off force needed to fly, allowing it to take off with a relatively gentle push with its long legs. The experiments of Muijres and his co-workers suggest that mosquitoes escape at speeds of about 24 cm per second—almost phenomel for their size. But what certainly remains the most remarkable aspect of mosquito behaviour and its capacity for survival is its ability to land on a person, suck blood greedily and take off after increasing its weight 100 or 200 per cent—often without the victim even being aware of what happened and without getting swatted as a consequence.

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