Kids are buzzing to learn about mozzies through citizen science

Did you know that some species of mosquitoes rarely drink even a drop of blood, preferring flower nectar? Or that mosquitoes only smell with their feet?

Students in some parts of Australia are learning this and more through the new Mozzie Monitors in Schools program, and there are ways for adults to discover more too.

The free schools’ program launched in October involves an activity-based in-class interactive lesson, followed by a mosquito collection and study experience supported remotely by scientists.

“Love or hate them, insects and creepy crawlies are always a drawcard for kids. So, when we bring them into the classroom, it’s a great opportunity to get students interested and excited about science,” says project lead Professor Craig Williams from University of South Australia.

“Learning about mosquitoes in a fun and hands-on way can help students connect with the content in a meaningful way, all the while building their interest in biology, nature, and STEM.

“The in-class session involves a mix of presentation and participation, with students learning about different mosquito body parts and breeds, lifecycles, and ecology, as well as mosquito-borne diseases and how to control or protect against mosquitos.

“The outdoor part of the program involves the class collecting and identifying mosquitoes, then submitting their observations to the Mozzie Monitors project on the iNaturalist citizen science database.

“Students of all ages love setting up and monitoring the mozzie traps, and this activity is a fantastic way for teachers to keep their class engaged in ongoing citizen science investigations.”

For those not young enough to participate in the schools’ program, but young at heart and thirsty for ways to learn about mozzies, you can still contribute to the Mozzie Monitors citizen science project.

Cosmos first reported on Mozzie Monitors in 2020, and the project has grown significantly since then, with now 5,460 observations from 1,268 participants of 91 different species – including the rarely collected species Aedes pecuniosus.

A close-up photograph of a mosquito with blue iridescent hairs on its legs.
An observation submitted to Mozzie Monitors on iNaturalist of the rarely collected Aedes pecuniosus at at Talegalla Weir, Queensland, Australia. © Scott W. Gavins, (CC-BY-NC)

Anyone in Australia can contribute to the project by downloading the iNaturalist app and submitting their mosquito observations.

“Ongoing tracking of mosquito populations can help scientists respond to new threats and pathogens,” says Williams.

“Protecting ourselves against mozzie bites is one thing, but it’s also important to learn about how we can limit the spread of mosquito-borne diseases.

“Actively engaging people in mosquito surveillance and citizen science can empower communities and improve public health literacy outcomes – and we can all play a role in this.”

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