Malaria mosquito is Latvia's insect of the year

It may not be an honor to rival a Nobel prize or Academy Award, but where insects are concerned, they have to get the plaudits where they can.

And in the case of the much-maligned malaria mosquito (Anopheles maculipenni) long overdue appreciation is being expressed by the Latvian Entomology Society (LEB) which has named the annoying blood-sucker its insect of the year for 2019.

According to the creepy-crawly fans, mosquitoes are not all bad news as they play an important role in food chains, help with pollination and even purify water when in their larval stage.

The aim of the insect of the year campaign is to inform the public about different biological species, as well as to pay attention to the influence of climate change on the flora and fauna of Latvia.

There are currently 30 species of mosquito known to be native to Latvia. The malaria mosquito actually consists of four closely-related species, which can only be distinguished by specialists.

Mātītes barojas ar asinīm, tēviņš ar augu sulām un nektāru

"Popular opinion is that the bloodsuckers are just bad news, causing itching spots and transmitting disease. Currently there are no pathogens transmitted in Latvia, and malaria was eradicated in the 1950s," points out Voldemars Spuņģis of the LEB.

"As the climate becomes warmer, it's possible that new species could come to Latvia, bringing with them significantly greater risks of disease," he warns.

So it's probably a good idea to find out about mosquitoes and their friends in advance.

If you encounter an interesting mosquito this year, you can take a picture of it and send it to www.dabasdati.lv for identification, though a high-resolution image will likely be required. The LEB can also be contacted via its Facebook page.

Just two days ago the Latvian Ornithological Society announced the willow grouse as its bird of the year, so it is entirely possible you may see one creature of the year eating another if you venture into the forest during the next twelve months.

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