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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
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't bite on this one! Dec 4 2003
As far as I can tell, this is essentially the same book as "Mosquito: The Story of Man's Deadliest Foe." The first couple of chapters are interesting, but after that, the writing becomes vague, repetitious, and inconsistent in tone, diction, and quality. What should have been a fascinating book filled with both technical information and personal anecdotes (one of the authors is, after all, a leading researcher in mosquito-borne diseases) instead is filled with generalities and handwaving and reads like a C+ term paper hastily pulled from the internet (really!). Don't waste your time!
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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 A page turner... Jan. 27 2002
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 "Why can't we just get rid of these things?"...
If you like this also see 'Level 4 - Virus Hunters of the CDC'
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5.0 out of 5 stars A great book Jan. 10 2002
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. The book starts with a summary of how mosquitos live and reproduce. The only complaint that I have is that I wish this section was a little longer. I would have liked it if the book went into a bit more detail about the diversity of mosquitos. I liked the way the book described the influences that mosquitos have had through history. The sections about yellow fever and malaria are informative. I really enjoyed this book. It does give you a good feel for how these little terrors are dealt with. The books is a fast read and it keeps your interest. If you travel or have an interest in mosquitos, this would be a good read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars whoa baby...who knew!!! Dec 31 2001
I was fascinated,educated, mesmerized and horrified by this book.
It was a wonderful read!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Mosquito - a most enjoyable book. Dec 11 2001
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. Unfortunately, the title is a little misleading in that there is relatively little information on the natural history of the mosquito, but this did not detract from my enjoyment of this book, and I highly recommend it.
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