Thursday, July 30, 2009

Alcohol and Mosquitoes

Here's the million dollar question: if a mosquito bites you after you've been drinking, does it get drunk from your blood? According to Michael Raupp, an entomologist at the University of Maryland, it's nearly impossible. But why? In lab tests, honeybees fly upside-down after alcohol exposure, and inebriated fruit flies have trouble staying upright and fare poorly on learning tests. So what's different about mosquitoes?

Scientists often puff ethanol vapors at insects and measure their sensitivity with a device called an inebriometer. Impressively, bugs can often withstand vapor concentrations of 60 percent alcohol, far more than what’s in our blood after a couple beers. To put that in perspective, someone who’s had 10 drinks might have a blood alcohol content of 0.2 percent. According to Coby Schal, an entomologist at North Carolina State University, a blood meal that contains 0.2 percent alcohol is like drinking a beer diluted 25-fold to a mosquito. Basically, you would certainly die if you ever tried to drink a mosquito under the table.

So what makes mosquitoes different from honeybees and fruit flies? It's mostly their diet and bodily features. They feed on fermenting fruit and plants, which contain at least 1 percent alcohol and might have boosted their tolerance. More importantly, in a mosquito, alcohol is diverted to a “holding pouch,” where enzymes break it down before it hits the nervous system.

Read more about it HERE

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