Mosquitoes are not typically welcomed into a school.
But on Wednesday, they were special guests at the Pennsylvania Avenue School in Atlantic City, where members of the American Mosquito Control Association taught students about the insects and how to control them in their own backyards.
The AMCA is holding its conference in Atlantic City this year, and makes a trip to a local school part of the annual event and an extension of its educational outreach efforts.
Younger students got to make antenna headbands and mosquito paper puppets. They learned about mosquito traps and got to see mosquito larvae in a plastic container. Older students examined mosquito development under microscopes set up in the new school’s science labs.
“They’ve got such great technology here,” said Eric Jackson, a teacher who does public outreach for the Lee County Mosquito Control Commission in Fort Myers, Fla. He coordinated the event and was able to use the school’s electronic whiteboards to show monster-sized examples of tiny mosquitoes.
Teacher Brian Murphy, also from Lee County, said of the 65 species of mosquitoes in New Jersey, only about 30 bite humans. The rest prefer animals. But, he told seventh-graders, all mosquitoes need water to breed, and even a discarded bottle cap or potato chip bag can hold enough water to breed thousands of new mosquitoes.
While humans may not like them, he said mosquitoes are crucial to the food chain, providing nourishment to fish and other wildlife.
“Most mosquitoes get eaten,” he said.
Students were surprised by the facts about mosquitos.
“I thought they were all the same,” Elessa Mite, 12, said after Murphy showed how females and males look different. He said only females bite because they need the protein from blood to produce eggs, and his description of how they do it drew grimaces and groans of disgust from students.
Katie Heggemeier, of Lee County, showed students a container with the only type of mosquito that eats other mosquitoes.
Mike Romanowski and Joe Schmidt, of the Ocean County Mosquito Extermination Commission in Barnegat Township, demonstrated how mosquito traps catch mosquitoes alive. He said if there is a concern about mosquitoes spreading disease, scientists want to test them while they are alive.
The traps are relatively small and easily portable so they can be set up anywhere they are needed, even in a backyard.
Younger students may have not picked up all the scientific terminology, but they got the general idea of why mosquitoes thrive in wet conditions, and why scientists want to control them.
“We learned about the baby mosquitoes,” said Shalayra Rios, 7.
“Some wiggle in the water,” added Angel Darcy Rodriguez, 7.
“And they bite,” said Ramon Mara, 7.
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