Mosquitoes. I think it is safe to say that everyone loathes them. I know that everything fits like a cog in nature’s ecosystem, but what would really happen if they just, I don’t know, disappeared forever? That would be my dream. Here in Iceland, we are fortunate to not only live in a stunning and diverse country but are also free from the flying, blood-sucking, nuisances that are the dreaded mosquitoes. But, if you can find mosquitoes in almost any environment (they have even been located in the North Pole) then why can’t you find mosquitoes in Iceland?
Mosquitoes, The World’s Deadliest Creature
Normally, you can’t spot a mosquito until it’s too late. They sit quietly on your skin, waiting for the opportunity for a free lunch. They then plunge six small needles into your flesh and begin sucking your blood. These pesky vampiric insects are paradoxical, because they are so little, and yet, they are so deadly. I assure you I am not being hyperbolic; statistically, mosquitoes are the deadliest animal on the planet. A mosquito’s bite isn’t what makes it so dangerous, it is their exceptionally refined method for transferring diseases. Around a million people die from a mosquito-borne illness every year. Africa is hit hardest by the blight brought on by the pesky bug. Sub-saharan countries in Africa are regularly ravaged by the diseases spread by mosquitos. Luckily we don’t have that problem in most other parts of the world.
So, now that we understand the danger that mosquitos pose let’s take a closer look at why they can’t survive in Iceland (at least not yet).
A Gross Metamorphosis
Nature is indeed the greatest engineer. The little ways that evolution has allowed animals to develop and adapt to their environments has always amazed me. Evolution takes place across all species, like how I have in recent months evolved towards binge-watching a new Netflix series (Somehow, someway, I never manage to watch the show Vikings until now, and now I have evolved into a couch potato. Thanks nature!). In all seriousness, mosquitoes can’t live or sustain life in Iceland due to the metamorphosis they undergo during their crucial developmental phases.
The first phase of a mosquito’s life begins as a cigar-shaped white egg. Female mosquitoes lay these eggs individually and then package them together like rafts, and lay them in stagnant water. The minuscule mosquito will only stay in their pods for only mere moments when compared to the life cycle of other animals. They then break through the shells of their eggs and become “wrigglers”. Wrigglers look like something H.P. Lovecraft would see in a fever dream. After this second stage, mosquitoes will begin the equivalent of a chrysalis phase for a butterfly, and they are called pupae when they reach this stage in their lives. Here, they stay floating just under the water, taking in air through tubes which breach through the water, which allows them to breathe. After this, they finally break through their shells and emerge as a fully formed adult mosquito. Basically the equivalent of a vampire-like a butterfly, but much uglier and dangerous.
This life cycle takes place in the blink of an eye. The average mosquito life cycle is two weeks, but as short as 4 days, or as long as 2 months. Their short life spans are only half the equation. The other major factor concerning mosquito development surrounds their breeding grounds.
Iceland’s Unpredictability = No Mosquitoes
Mosquitoes breed in stagnant pools of water, and they need warm weather to survive their infancy. If you have ever been to Iceland, you know that the last thing the weather is is predictable. Dramatic temperature shifts ostensibly make it impossible for mosquitoes to produce offspring. It is true that Greenland’s coastlines have active breeding grounds for these little bloodsuckers, but I guess it is fairly more stable in Greenland, meteorologically speaking.
When the hatchlings reached a fully formed adult they immediately search out a host to feed off of. This is especially challenging given the lack of animals for the insects to feed on. So, more often than not, even if mosquitos survive their birth in Iceland they will likely die very quickly.
Now, it is “possible” to find mosquitoes in Iceland. However, they are most definitely not born here. Studies have shown that mosquitoes can survive on landing gear under airplanes for long periods of time, and they have even been shown to survive in subzero temperatures for hours at a time. So, sometimes, rarely, the little guys will hitch a ride from Greenland or mainland Europe, and make it to Keflavík. However, given how unstable our environment is regarding their fragile life cycle, they ultimately cannot reproduce.
It could be possible though in the future that mosquitoes could arrive in Iceland. As global temperatures continue on an upward trend, it could mean mosquitoes would get a more extended breeding period. Who knows, if we keep polluting the planet, Iceland could become a Mecca for mosquitoes. Wouldn’t that be a horrible twist of fate?
The Lack of Mosquitoes in Iceland
As of now though, you don’t have to worry about getting your blood sucked by these pesky insects in Iceland. However, if you are hiking, you should still take bug spray with you. While Iceland is free of mosquitoes, we have plenty of other insects of the bloodsucking or non-blood sucking variety. Be on the lookout for ticks and midges. Besides that, enjoy our mosquito free Icelandic countryside.