Artificial Bites at Night

They rise from the dark,
a cloud of wings
a swarm of hunger
a thirst
for us.
They hover
pierce the skin
and drink their fill,
leaving only
their blotted note of blood –
a memory of pain.
They fall to the dark,
a winter’s sleep
against the bitter chill
of silent nights
and frozen flesh.
But city lights betray
their calm,
beguiling a return
to fly
and feast
and die.

The Northern house mosquito (image credit: Alvesgaspar via Wikimedia Commons).

This poem is inspired by recent research, which has found that light pollution may extend the mosquito biting season.

The Northern house mosquito is responsible for spreading the West Nile virus. To survive the winter, it goes into a kind of ‘sleep mode’ known as diapause. Recent research shows that light pollution, like bright city lights at night, can affect the mosquito’s ability to start this dormancy period. However, scientists haven’t fully explored how light pollution affects the mosquito’s daily activities and energy storage during both dormancy and active times.

In this new study researchers compared the daily activity of mosquitoes raised in conditions that encourage dormancy (short days) and conditions that prevent dormancy (long days), with and without artificial light at night. They aimed to better understand how daily activity, dormancy, and light pollution are connected. They found that exposure to artificial light at night changed several aspects related to dormancy, such as slightly increasing activity levels in short-day mosquitoes and preventing some of them from storing enough fat. These findings suggest that light pollution might lower insect survival by messing with their energy storage and could also affect other aspects related to dormancy. This could potentially make the mosquito biting season longer and make it harder for those living in urban environments to survive the winter.

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