while travelers to exotic regions may live in fear of marine predators and crocodiles, without doubt it’s the humble mosquito that causes the most problems by transmitting illnesses such as malaria. Whether you know it as a mozzie, a skeeter, or a bug, it can be a real nuisance when it bites, and a killer in some areas of the globe. Only the female mosquito supplements a diet of nectar and fruit ‘trice by feasting on human blood. The resulting itchy bumps are caused by our immune system’s reaction to a cocktail of mosquito saliva and anti-coagulants injected under the skin through her serrated proboscis.
There are around 3,500 species—thought to have evolved during the Jurassic era 170,000,000 years ago when they were considerably larger. It’s the anopheles mosquito that causes the major health problems, transmitting malaria, encephalitis, West Nile, and dengue fevers. Mosquitos are most active at dawn and dusk, although malarial varieties can and do bite at any time of day. The best treatment is prevention. In communities this means minimizing breeding grounds (typically still water and marshy areas), and for individuals the answer is to cover up, use insect repellent, and mosquito nets.
Travelers are also advised to take anti-malaria tablets. Affected regions include Central and parts of South America. most countries in sub-tropical Africa. and southern and eastern Asia. While there is no clear evidence that some people are more prone to be bitten, there are plenty of anecdotes. In the British Armed Forces it used to be said that ii mosquitos enjoyed feasting on you, leeches left you alone!
Find small but deadly beasties Australia may have legendary sunshine and beaches. but it also has a world-class array of killer wildlife. Forget the sharks and the trots, there are far more diminutive beasts out to get you.
1. Blue-ringed octopus There are four species to watch out for, including one found around the Great Barrier Reef. The golf-ball-sized octopus will bite if touched or provoked, and carries enough venom to paralyze a victim and stop the heart. If it is glowing blue it’s a sign to watch out.
2. Box jellyfish Also known as the sea wasp, this bell-shaped creature’s toxic tentacles can stop the heart in less than four minutes. It is common in north• eastern Australia. where warning signs are displayed around beaches and estuaries in the summer months.
3. Funnel-web spider With a bite that can pierce a fingernail, the Sydney funnel-web (Atrax robustus) is feared because males—which, in this instance, are more deadly than females—tend to
leave the burrow, and wander into houses or garages in search of a suitable mate.
4. Red back spider A close relative of the black widow, this arachnid is distinguished by a red stripe down its back. Part of the problem is its small size—the deadly females measure less than O.Sin (I cm) long. It also has a habit of hanging out in urban areas, often setting up its web in dark corners of sheds and outhouses.
5. Stonefish Effectively camouflaged by resembling a rock, this fish lives in shallow waters and feeds on small fish and shrimp. While not actively aggressive, the danger to humans comes when they step on it as the fish’s back is armed with barbed dorsal spines that can kill in two hours without anti-venom.