AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

We Need Mosquitoes?!

Picture By maureen_sill, Flickr

Yes, in fact, we do need mosquitoes. And not only mosquitoes but all the other types of insects as well. A recent discovery by Anurag Agrawal, the leader of the study and a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell University, revealed that insects are hugely important because of the roles they play in the evolution of plants. In Agrawal’s study, in which he observed the interactions of plant-eating moths and evening primroses, the primroses treated with insecticide lost through evolution the traits that protect them from insects.


This points to the idea that if plants don’t need to defend themselves against insects, they stop developing the traits required to defend themselves. The real shocker in this discovery, however, was how quickly the primroses adapted to this situation, in just 3-4 generations. Agrawal “was ‘very surprised’ by how quickly this process occurred, and that such surprises, ‘tell us something about the potential speed and complexities of evolution. In addition, experiments like ours that follow evolutionary change in real-time provide definitive evidence of evolution.”
But why are insects important then? Well, it is believed that many plant traits developed solely as a means of defense against insects. Some of these traits are desirable to people, like fruit’s bitter taste. In addition, with farmers trying to breed certain crops to be resistant to pests, this study shows that some genetic trade-offs might make it impossible to get certain traits in pest resistant plants. So bear with those pesky insects, as their relationship with plants is extremely important.

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  1. ilikebioha

    Evolucious–I am not a fan on insects either, but as said there are more benefits from them then just enhancing the taste of food. This site lists a few of the benefits, like bees producing honey and centipedes hunting scary cockroaches.

  2. evolucious

    Personally, I would rather lose some bitter-tasting fruit than have to endure mosquitos in the summer. I believe that scientists should march forward in their studies of improving mosquito repellents. For examples, researchers at Vanderbilt a few years ago stumbled upon a repellent that could possibly be more effective than DEET. The VUAA1 compound works by pushing the mosquito into sensory overload, so that it cannot sniff out a person’s blood. Hopefully it turns out to be nontoxic and safe for daily use!

    Read more at:

  3. arthenice

    Interesting article, I hate mosquitoes but I never realized how important they were for the evolution of plants defense and not only that but how quickly these changes can occur. This article says it can take as little as 5 years:

  4. rawgdog

    Wow! This discovery is very intriguing. Though I truly abhor mosquitoes, my personal views have at least been altered to give some respect to them. I thought it was interesting when you mentioned that the tastes of certain fruits may be solely a result of a plants reaction to insects such as mosquitoes.

    This article reminded me a lot of an article about how butterflies are also crucial to our survival:

    Basically, since butterflies are very sensitive creatures, they will react in very unique ways to all kinds of environmental signs. This allows them to be great indicators of biodiversity, reduction in wildlife, or even the weather.

  5. sciencegirl025

    Very interesting article, it’s studies like this which makes me appreciate things otherwise deemed as a “nuisance”. I came across a very interesting article which, at first, states that a world without mosquitoes would be a very “disease free” and more pleasant world.

    However, the article does then describe the role of mosquitoes in our society and some other important aspects of mosquitos. Although mosquitos may seem very annoying, it’s good to note their important role in our environment.

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