Mosquito Researcher Offers Her Own Arm To Hungry Mosquitoes

Illustration for article titled Mosquito Researcher Offers Her Own Arm To Hungry Mosquitoes

When you've got a colony of mosquitoes in your lab, you've got to feed them...and that can become just a bit uncomfortable.

Photographer Alex Wild explains what's going on in this photo:

Rockefeller University's Emily Dennis feeds her study subjects, Aedes aegypti. In the wild this species transmits yellow fever, dengue, and chikungunya, but lab mosquitoes are clean.


Dennis provides some more information, including how often she has to feed her insects, how many feed at once, and why she prefers feeding them by hand (ha!) rather than through more artificial means:

I keep a lot of different stocks and end up feeding about 8 cages every three months. Each cage has about 500-1000 mosquitoes...

Everyone in the lab keeps their own stocks. Most people feed on their arms, some people use mice, and some people use an artificial feeder. I like to feed on myself because 1) I get lots of street cred as a scientist 2) I get a lot of my hypotheses from watching mosquitoes interact with my skin and 3) because I don't want to select for mosquitoes that feed well on membrane feeders/mice.

I am pretty resistant to the bites after feeding regularly, so I only have a red arm for a few hours after this. In fact, feeding a few hundred mosquitoes is much better than feeding just one or two! With one or two, you get individual, itchy bumps. With a whole armful your arm just feels hot (because of the inflammatory response).

Scientists often to go great lengths for their sticking a graduate student's arm into the mosquito cage, providing a warm, bloody buffet.

Photo copyright Alex Wild, used with permission. See more photos from his mosquito shoot here.


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Thomas Ben White

Having spent a few years living behind the malaria line, that image is absolutely horrifying to me. That said, "I get lots of street cred as a scientist" is just fantastic.