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Mosquito: A Natural History of Our Most Persistent and Deadly Foe [Hardcover]

Michael D'Antonio , Andrew Spielman
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 13 2001
From a world-renowned expert on mosquitoes and a prize-winning reporter comes a fascinating work of popular science -- a comprehensive study of the insect itself, its role in history, and its threat to mankind.

From its irritating whine to the sting and itch of its bite, the mosquito ranks near the bottom of mankind's list of favorite creatures. But these tiny insects, once merely a seasonal annoyance, now are capturing headlines worldwide as new information emerges about the diseases they carry, their migratory population, and their growing resistance to pesticides.

Harvard professor Andrew Spielman has dedicated his life to understanding this insect, a passion that makes him the perfect guide to their amazing world and the perfect author of this lively, accessible book that offers an intriguing and horrifying mosquito-eye view of nature and man. He explains where mosquitoes breed, and how they die, showing us their natural foes and man-made enemies while explaining the myriad diseases they bring to all corners of the world. Spielman offers colorful examples of how the mosquito has insinuated itself into human history, from the defeat of Sir Francis Drake's fleet to the death of thousands of Frenchmen working on the Panama Canal to the recent widespread West Nile panic in New York City. Filled with little-known facts and illuminating anecdotes that bring this tiny being into larger focus, Mosquito offers fascinating, alarming, and convincing evidence that the sooner we get to know this little creature, the better off we'll be.

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Product Description

From Amazon

Far from being just an itchy annoyance, a mosquito bite can also mark the transmission of a deadly disease. Millions worldwide die of malaria, yellow fever, and West Nile virus every year. Scientist Andrew Spielman tells the story of the tiny, ubiquitous insect, the diseases it carries, and the fight against them both in Mosquito.

Spielman, who has spent much of his career battling mosquitoes and mosquito-borne illness, knows his subject intimately--perhaps too intimately, as the section on the different species drags a bit. Better is his handling of various historic epidemics, from the malaria outbreak that caused the French to abandon the Panama Canal to the 1999 West Nile virus outbreak in New York City.

Spielman also recounts stories of how the tiny pests were thwarted, including the way DDT came to be used as a weapon in the cold war (take our side and we'll get rid of your mosquitoes)--and why these efforts ultimately failed. Most important, Spielman details how cities should prepare themselves for the inevitable epidemics ahead. --Sunny Delaney

From Booklist

Mosquito expert Spielman tells us, in this creepily fascinating book, that there are more than 2,500 kinds of those tiny, annoying, and extremely deadly creatures. Deadly? Yup: every year millions of people die from malaria, which is just one of the diseases carried by mosquitoes. Spielman and coauthor D'Antonio tell us everything we could possibly need to know about the mosquito: its life cycle, its natural enemies and predators, and, of course, its monumental impact on human history. (Did you know that mosquitoes contributed to Sir Francis Drake's defeat by the Spanish Armada, or that Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan had their plans of world domination brought to a screeching halt by the little pests?) This is truly an unexpected delight, an informative, entertaining, and sometimes skin-crawly book that should appeal to anyone with a taste for popular science. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Consider the most common mosquito on earth, one that is likely resting in some dark corner of your very own home or, if you are reading in bed on a warm summer evening, about to issue its faint buzz-do you hear it right now?-in your ear. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars The Deadliest Insect of Them All Aug. 21 2003
Mosquitoes are perhaps the most dangerous of all insects. Somewhere around 2 million people die each year from mosquito-vectored human malaria alone- many more than are killed in traffic accidents (source: WHO.) Andrew Spielman and Michael D'Antonio have now produced a book that documents the life history of and human association with these tiny vampires and they have generally done a very good job. If you want to know some fascinating facts about mosquitoes, this is a good source.
Unfortunately the maps of the distributions of both mosquitoes and the diseases they carry are somewhat out of date. Aedes aegypti is now in Tucson, Las Cruces, and El Paso in the Southwest U.S., and West Nile is in almost every state. Also the information about the vectors of West Nile Virus is an oversimplification. In the western US at least, Culex tarsalis my be a more efficient vector than C. pipiens.
Despite these minor flaws, I highly recommend this book. It is one of the best general work on the subject since J. D. Gillett's book "The Mosquito." Unfortunately both are now out of print.
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4.0 out of 5 stars "If you are really unlucky, you might die" March 17 2003
"The saliva that they leave behind might make you itchy, or if you are really unlucky, you might die".
If you are like me and seem to attract these buzzing beasts you will enjoy this book, although bear in mind it is rather technical and written mainly for the scientifically minded.
Some useful information includes:
-carbon dioxide and heat attracts them, (but it doesn't seem to be explained here why they seem to like some people more than others, or whether it is just that some people react to bites more than others),
-various species attack different parts of the body (eg some the ankles, some the head),
-some don't attack humans at all,
-some attack only humans and monkeys,
-colours vary-some are black and white striped, (these cause yellow fever), others are brown, others dominantly grey.
-the mosquito has had a significant effect on human history through various mosquito borne diseases (eg Dengue, Yellow Fever, Malaria, Encephalitus, and Rift Valley Fever).
-various mosquito-borne diseases are exclusive to birds, some cross from birds to man, some from horses to man, some from monkeys to man, etc.
Some historical plagues and the diseases transmitted by mosquitoes are described eg Dengue, Yellow Fever, Malaria , Encephalitus, and Rift Valley Fever. Historically, it was initially ridiculed that tiny organisms could carry tiny diseases, but careful observation and scientific method eventually won the day over 'folk psychology'. Mosquitoes, through recognition of their association with yellow fever and malaria, played a major part in the development of germ theory, and by association much of modern medicine.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Dispatches from a Losing War Oct. 17 2001
What animal presents the greatest danger to humans? With our predilection for blood and guts (and scary movies) we are likely to answer sharks, or lions and tigers and bears. This is wrong by a factor of millions. You yourself have hunted, and sometimes killed this most dangerous animal, but most of the time it has attacked you in stealth and escaped to attack again. It is the tiny mosquito that endangers us far more than the big, scary beasts. They caused 500 million cases of malaria last year, and a million deaths from it, and that's just malaria. We can swat a few, but for all our knowledge, large-scale control of the scourge eludes us. Just how big a problem mosquitoes pose is made clear in _Mosquito: A Natural History of Our Most Persistent and Deadly Foe_ by Andrew Spielman and Michael D'Antonio. A good deal of the book is told in the first person, for Spielman is a tropical disease specialist and a particular expert on mosquitoes and the diseases they transmit. (He has been bitten so many times he no longer gets welts.) D'Antonio is a journalist who has won a Pulitzer. The combination of the two has resulted in a surprisingly readable, scary, and humbling volume.
The first section of the book is entitled "The Magnificent Enemy." It is clear that Spielman, after decades of trying to understand mosquitoes and battling them, holds them in admiration as finely tuned specimens produced by the pressures of evolution. (He is also able to refer to them as "the little devils" when they turn up where they are not wanted.) You knew that only females draw blood (this is to produce the eggs of the next generation), but did you know that they mostly eat rotting fruit?
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4.0 out of 5 stars damned pests July 3 2001
Prison life brings home to a man how nature carries on its quiet, care-free life quite unconcerned,
and makes one feel almost sentimental towards animal and plant life--except for flies; I can't work up any sentiment about them! -Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Prisoner for God : Letters and Papers from Prison
If I were to say to you that this book tells you everything you need to know about mosquitoes, your initial reaction, like mine, would likely be that you already know too much : they are damned annoying pests. But Andrew Spielman, a Harvard professor, and his coauthor, Michael D'Antonio, have produced a concise and very interesting volume about the mosquito that is well worth reading. The secret of their success lies in the fact that though Professor Spielman obviously feels that the mosquito is fascinating in its own right, the book focusses more on the deadly interaction between the bugs, the various diseases they transmit, and humankind. At a time when the whole Northeast braces to see where birds are dying of West Nile virus, this makes the book quite topical.
In a sense, the book has a tragic, or potentially tragic, arc to it. After some introductory material about mosquitoes, the authors go on to discuss the truly heroic efforts that were made to identify the cause of malaria, and once mosquitoes were identified as the culprits, to combat this pest. Eventually, this led to a wholesale effort to eradicate the disease entirely, an effort which obviously failed, despite some marked successes. In this section of the book Spielman is refreshingly forthright about the reasons for the ultimate failures and about what worked and what didn't.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't bite on this one!
As far as I can tell, this is essentially the same book as "Mosquito: The Story of Man's Deadliest Foe. Read more
Published on Dec 4 2003 by Daniel M. Hobbs
5.0 out of 5 stars A page turner...
It reads like a fast paced novel and I could not keep it down...
One is surprised by how much they learn from the book and it is a great read for anybody who has ever thought... Read more
Published on Jan. 27 2002 by "kanwalduggal"
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book
This is fun book about a subject that everybody hates. Nobody likes mosquitos, they are annoying little beasts and some of them may just kill you. Read more
Published on Jan. 10 2002 by Marceau Ratard
5.0 out of 5 stars whoa baby...who knew!!!
I was fascinated,educated, mesmerized and horrified by this book.
It was a wonderful read!
Published on Dec 31 2001 by Mary Moyer
5.0 out of 5 stars Mosquito - a most enjoyable book.
This book is primarily focused on the history and epidemiology of mosquito borne human disease. It is very well written, easy to read and is logically laid out. Read more
Published on Dec 11 2001 by Graham N. George
5.0 out of 5 stars The full Buzzzzzz....
I especially liked the author's in-depth treatment of the subject; fascinating! A "must-read" for all who live south of the Mason-Dixon Line!
Published on Aug. 6 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars A most interesting little critter
Who would ever have known the amazing history behind one of the most annoying things that summer brings us every year? Read more
Published on July 30 2001 by Albert H. Bourne Jr.
5.0 out of 5 stars battle preparations
For anyone who must venture outdoors and do battle with one of man's oldest foes, this outstanding volume should be, to borrow an overused line in mutliple action movies,... Read more
Published on July 30 2001 by William Camp Vann
4.0 out of 5 stars helpfull book on mosquitoes
I bought this book to do a research for an artistic project. It was more than helpfull... not only that I found resorcefull details on the anathomy of mosquito but I also learnt... Read more
Published on June 1 2001
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